Digital Revolution Transforms New York Fashion Week
Its a wrap! New York Fashion Week is over. It turned into a mini phenomenon~ or circus, depending whom you ask~ this year. All the hubbub wouldn't come as a surprise to followers, however, but this year was something different. What is new is the increasing speed of change, accelerated by social media and the ease of having 15 minutes of fame.
Long-time industry insiders bemoan this change, the rise of street-style influencers and Instagram hashtags.
At a post show event serving Twizzlers in martinis, this complaint came as a surprise to hear. Influencers and Instagram do serve an important purpose in the global fashion business. Yet, some insiders grumbled (all while posting pictures of themselves seated in their front-row perch, of course. You know… when in Rome.)
But is this just another opportunistic evolution of #NYFW, as it’s meant to be, and not really a change?
For some perspective, a book from the Council of Fashion Designers of America, “American Runway” by Booth Moore and published by Abrams, looks back at the 75-year history of Fashion Week in its many incarnations. The one constant about Fashion Week since its beginnings seems to be just that... change. It evolves with the times.
It all began during World War II as a way to promote the American garment industry and tout the "Made in the USA" table. The twice-annual showing of the new seasons of styles had a promotional intention from its start. Fashion Week was then, by comparison, a modest and mostly pragmatic series of shows with few events.
You may remember the shows from 1990s with the Hilton sisters or the 2000s with the Kardashians. The press, paparazzis and fans wrapped in a fever and the sometimes brutal jockeying for pole position seats, pitting socialite against celebrity, front row. But you would be wrong if you thought this smack down began with them. It was a few decades before that the craziness began, when designers started inviting boldface names to attract a little extra media attention.
Bianca Jagger and her posse in 1960s and 70s can be attributed for turning New York Fashion Week into a celebrity party scene.
The first wife of Mick Jagger; Bianca was a glamorous socialite, close friends with Andy Warhol. She was often associated with New York City’s Studio 54, venue to every post party party. Her hooded dresses, white suits and jumpsuits made her the style icon of her times. Bianca and her friends turned fashion shows, along with their wild after parties, into widely attended press and paparazzi events.
And so came change, a star studded NYC Fashion Week was born. Then there was the '80's and '90's. A Kendall Jenner now might spur millions of likes now when she takes a spin on the catwalk, but let us not forget that today’s top models got their schooling from the Supes, such as Cindy Crawford and Naomi Campbell, who really knew how to turns heads.
Changing with the times, in 2001, on Sept. 11, the shows that started on that bright beautiful morning came to a halt, just like the rest of the world, as news unfolded about the terrorist attacks. The times were modest and full of mourning.
And when the economy boomed designers put on huge extravaganzas in a show of decadence – like Ralph Lauren’s 40th anniversary show (pics here on Getty Images and here on New York mag) and dinner (one of the greatest show/parties NYFW has ever seen, in my opinion which claimed a good chunk of real estate in Central Park in Central Park or Zac Posen parading models over the pool at the legendary Four Seasons restaurant.
Fashion Week changed again with the stock market crash in 2008. Designers went from extravagant to putting their model in tough-girl armor. Signs of tough times.
What does the digital revolution mean for New York Fashion Week?
Changing with the times, Fashion Week saw more designers eschew the runway all together than ever. Opting instead for super-interactive pop-up exhibits. Other designers put their full collection on the very democratic Snapchat. Others live-streaming their shows, like the beautiful Vivienne Tam. So, while there will always be traditionalists, one has to wonder for how long the old ways will last before succumbing to new ways.
The digital revolution is democratizing New York Fashion Week, if you ask me.
While some industry insiders may bemoan this change, others (like us) welcome this personalized approach. Change is in keeping with the NYFW tradition of keeping in tune with the times and representing a growingly diverse, unique and inclusive culture. We can't wait to see where this evolves next season!
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Author: Mona Maine de Biran
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