New York Fashion Week Gets Even More Exclusive

“Why have 20 million people with zero connection to the clothes?” – Oscar de la Renta
Photo: Getty Images

Fashion shows are a circus. Granted, they’re inspiring and electric—the culmination of months of hard labor and magic—but the curtain’s long been pulled back on those 10 minutes of shimmering mastery to reveal the s***show behind the scenes. (If you’ve ever been backstage and bludgeoned by a photographer whilst trying to grab a post-show quote, you’ll know what I’m talking about.)

Industry insiders (not entirely sure who that even refers to anymore) are demanding change and according to this Wall Street Journal article with NYFW show-runners IMG Fashion, some of that manic hullabaloo will be remedied. “It was becoming a zoo,” says Catherine Bennett, IMG’s SVP and managing director of WSJ. “What used to be a platform for established designers to debut their collections to select media and buyers has developed into a cluttered, often cost-prohibitive and exhausting period for our industry.” 

Oscar de la Renta, who this past spring cut his guest list by half by refusing to show twice (his head-count solution from the season prior), openly decried the mega show. “Why have 20 million people with zero connection to the clothes?” he told WWD in August. 

Trend soothsayers Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen may have originally migrated from the orthodox runway treatment in spring 2011 due to late samples, but they clearly haven’t looked back. Fall 2013 RTW—a cunning, widely praised collection—was shown via exclusive presentation at an Upper East Side limestone townhouse.  

According to the bean counters, a big-name fashion label can spend one million on a traditional fashion show, and due to the staggering rental costs and finite square-footage, Lincoln Center is losing ground to up-and-coming studios and spaces throughout the city. Given how many times we’ve hoofed it to Milk Studios and then over to Pier 57 and back uptown we can testify to how taxing this can be. That said, I kinda can’t help but be a little side-eye on this new, more “intimate” direction. 

IMG is heralding a return to the fashion shows of yore. According to the brass, shows will become 20% more exclusive (as in 1:5 people who thought they were returning to Lincoln Center are jkjkjkjkjkjk, because they will not be invited). This is in order to combat those attendees with “a tenuous connection to the fashion industry.” [Cue the cackling maitre d’ on the phone when Patrick Bateman tries to get a last-minute reservation at Dorsia.] 

The Cut’s reporting this like a ban on fashion bloggers, which isn’t unfounded given this sentiment from the WSJ: “Lincoln Center has often been swarmed with fashion bloggers [and] street-style photographers.”

IMG will be adding venues for emerging designers like The Hub at Hudson which is a steal at $15,000 for the rental at nearby Hudson Hotel. On the other end of this fiscally driven gerrymandering, there will also be backstage areas allocated “to do some serious high-level VIP hospitality for designers or private green rooms for front-row guests.” I mean, I understand how that appeals to certain people (rhymes with MimYe), but also can’t help finding this baffling. So Lincoln Center’s too small yet too expensive and too accessible? This doesn’t sound tenuous for longterm viability at all.

Given that people with IRL, serious connections to the fashion industry (and the clothes) like the New York Times’ Cathy Horyn can handily write up a scathing review of Saint Laurent Paris from her desk (because: Internet), it all just feels like a strange, roundabout way of being classist and hoary while ignoring the real point. Aren’t traditional fashion shows in and of themselves quaint pageants? Don’t get me wrong, I want everyone to keep their jobs, but they haven’t served a straightforward function since a handful of socialites with serious pocketbooks, a pack of buyers for like seven domestic department stores, and a smattering of Big Screen Movie Stars With Studio Deals convened at some atelier to see the haps.

Fashion Week in New York turned into an international trade-show-music-festival forever ago, because the very nature of how fashion is regarded and consumed has changed. The audience has shifted. We’ve known how this sausage was made for ages, too. It’s cosmetics, shoes, handbags, red carpet, ad campaigns, capsule collections, famous people, voyeurism, brilliantly executed stunt-presentations, street style, and gaming cyber sales that move units, not fashion shows at Lincoln Center. I sorta thought we’d all agreed on that? Slash the guest list, banish the hoi polloi, but it’s the value of physically attending a fashion viewing at a specific, eventized time that actually seems to be the problem when you crunch the math.

I’m just saying I’m disappointed. Call me when the new, exciting direction is that we’re all ogling holograms streamed from outer space. Or, wait, is space out? Someone was telling me the ocean was the new space ever since Richard Branson and Lady Gaga got a hold of it. God. Can’t designers have anything?

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