It’s back-to-school time: Parents and kids everywhere are filling their backpacks, charging their computers, readying their water bottles and making shopping lists. That this time of year coincides with fashion month has always seemed something of a cosmic joke, or a telling coincidence. The shows, after all, are effectively a back-to-work moment for all.
Or a what-you-will-wear-when-you-go-back-to-work moment (maybe this month, maybe in 2020, depending on whether a brand is on a see now/buy now schedule). And a what-you-will-see-in-the-stores-when-you-go-back-to-work moment (ditto). Definitely a what-you-will-see-on-celebrities-and-influencers-for-the-next-three-months moment (either way). Prepare yourself! Forewarned is forearmed! And all that.
So what should you expect? Diversity, hopefully, of race, size and age. And a lot more.
There isn’t a lot of designer churn, but there are a lot of disappearing brands
For the first time in a while, the designer shuffle has let up. But that does not mean you should become complacent; there are still undercurrents of change.
Some brands are moving their shows to different cities: Peter Pilotto left London for Milan, and Boss left New York for Milan. Telfar has swapped New York for Paris, at least for the collection reveal. First its designer, Telfar Clemens, will be showing a “nonlinear film” in New York that will be a preview of what we’ll see in the City of Light.
What we won’t see: Sonia Rykiel, which has been liquidated and will not be showing. Also sitting out this season: Kenzo. Its designers, Humberto Leon and Carol Lim, departed in July, and Felipe Oliveira Baptista, the new creative director, is taking his time with reinvention.
In Milan, Roberto Cavalli, which lost its designer and later filed for bankruptcy, was sold and is on hiatus until the new owners, a Dubai property developer, figure out what to do.
In New York, following in the footsteps of Calvin Klein, which said goodbye to the runway last season, Derek Lam has decided to close his high-end line, skip the runway and focus on his contemporary label, 10 Crosby. And Diane von Furstenberg is eschewing a runway show for a power lunch.
Chew on that. And speaking of power …
Politics is back
As if it ever went away! Things just got a little quieter for a while. Maybe it’s because the last day of New York Fashion Week is also the day of the next, winnowed-down Democratic debate; maybe it’s because of Brexit; maybe that’s just how the world works. At any rate, neutrality is no longer the best look.
News broke in August that Steve Ross, the billionaire investor in Equinox, SoulCycle and Hudson Yards, was throwing a big Trump fund-raiser in the Hamptons. Faster than you could say “we are the opposition,” Prabal Gurung and Rag & Bone, labels that had planned to show at the Shed, the arts space at Hudson Yards, announced that they were taking their collections and moving elsewhere.
Which probably should have been expected given that Mr. Gurung, celebrating his 10th anniversary, has entitled his show “Who Gets to Be American?” Implication clear. (Not surprisingly, Mr. Clemens at Telfar is also focusing on the theme of migration as he … migrates! to Paris).
Finally, Kerby Jean-Raymond is returning to the New York schedule after skipping last season, unveiling the final chapter in his trilogy of Pyer Moss shows that use fashion to reframe the African-American experience.
Then, in London, Brexit will be top of everyone’s mind. The British Fashion Council began September by issuing a statement noting, “a no deal Brexit is a scenario that should be avoided.”
Will Carrie Symonds, Boris Johnson’s girlfriend, make an appearance at any shows, à la Samantha Cameron, and try to effect some détente? Or will she skip them as she did the Group of 7? Will fashion, which was virulently anti-leave, make its feelings heard once again?
And in Paris, will the yellow vests return? Wait and see. But, meanwhile, listen to the talk about …
Earlier this month 32 fashion brands from all the fashion cities, including Ralph Lauren, Burberry, Gucci and Hermès, signed a pact initiated by François-Henri Pinault, the chief executive of Kering, announcing that they were committed to being more sustainable. (Yeah, feels kind of wishy-washy to us too.) This will be the first opportunity to test their commitment.
Not everyone is convinced of their sincerity, however. Extinction Rebellion, the climate activists, have announced plans to disrupt London Fashion Week. There will be protests. Traffic will be bad.
And speaking of action: Stella McCartney, who announced the United Nations sustainable fashion charter at the COP 24 climate conference, has taken her brand, after a brief interregnum as an independent, to LVMH, archrival of Kering, her former group — and a noted nonsignatory of the fashion pact. Presumably Bernard Arnault, the LVMH chief executive, or his kin, will be sitting front row and center at her show as he throws down the gauntlet of competition.
Indeed, the two big Paris groups seem to be engaged in a race to one-up each other in the sustainability stakes: LVMH pledged 10 million euros, just over $11 million, to fight the forest fires in the Amazon, with a news release that quoted its board member Yann Arthus-Bertrand saying, “Protecting the environment is not just about words or speeches or declarations of principle, it also requires taking concrete collective actions.” Let the fireworks begin!
And speaking of entertainment
It’s definitely back on the schedule. Ralph Lauren is holding his show at a one-night-only Ralph’s Club, with a dress code that requires black-and-white evening wear. (So Truman Capote.)
The richest rock star and first celebrity to get her own LVMH label — I am speaking, of course, of Rihanna — is back with Savage x Fenty, her non-LVMH lingerie line. (The fact she gets to keep that deal even as she gets a new fashion label is a measure of just how much power she has.) It will be shown in some sort of over-the-top happening involving models, actors and dancers, “music, fashion and culture,” that will later be streamed for all on Amazon Prime. Yes, Amazon is getting into fashion, too. FOMO in action.
As it happens, Rihanna is represented by WME, the talent agency part of Endeavor, the globe-straddling behemoth that also happens to own New York Fashion Week. And her show is being produced by Endeavor Content, another arm of the company.
In this vein, the Blonds are collaborating with the gang from the new Broadway musical “Moulin Rouge” to stage its NYFW show (inspired by the movie) in the theater with some of the cast performing, and some tickets will be available to the public. Just as they will be for the next #TommyNow Instagram-ready extravaganza, held in the Apollo Theater and featuring the Tommy x Zendaya collection.
And just as they will be at London Fashion Week, which is becoming the first official fashion week to organize shows for the ticket-buying public during the regular schedule. House of Holland and Self-Portrait are the guinea pigs. Front row tickets are £245, nearly $300 (they include other perks).
By contrast, the Telfar Clemens film will have a free public screening just after the industry unveiling, though tickets start at $599 for “NYFW: The Experience,” which is how you gain access to the Blonds’ “Moulin Rouge” event.
Just how much is fashion worth? The answer raises the meta question of how you define a “show.”