Fashion doesn’t look good only on models; it can look good on different people of different ages and different body shapes. —Alber Elbaz
We are now less than a month away from New York Fashion Week. One of the most frequent statements made back in February was, “we’ll have to wait until September.” Many of the changes that were announced early in the year com into fruition with next month’s set of shows. Not only have designers swapped seats, attitudes about the shows themselves have changed. Even more, the economy surrounding fashion has changed. What we experience through the fashion shows this season is likely to be a very different look than what we saw this time last year.
Change is a given in fashion. We wouldn’t need to do these dog-and-pony shows twice a year if fashion wasn’t always changing. We complain if we see two collections in a row that look too terribly similar. What’s important this season is the degree of change. Major wheels were set in motion back in the spring that change not only what we see now, but how we see it. The very structure of the presentations is changing and that may influence our perspective of the shows as well as our buying habits.
As I type this, schedules for New York are being finalized. There are some names we’ve come to expect that we won’t see on the roster this year. London, Milan, and Paris are getting ready as well and it’s just not the same as it was back in the Spring (if you can call February Spring). The whole attitude is different. Let’s consider some of the changes.
Designers Swapping Seats
The number one topic at the beginning of each season is always which designers have switched to different labels. We didn’t see a tremendous amount of significant movement back in February, but we’ve certainly had some major changes since then and now all that jostling around has to prove its worth. These are going to drive changes in look for a number of labels.
- Raf Simons has moved to Calvin Klein. You had to be hiding under a rock to miss this announcement. Everyone knew Raf was moving almost from the moment the first phone call was placed. The timing could have perhaps been a bit better. Simons works fast but it would be out of the ordinary even for him to create a full set on his own by September 15, which is when CK is likely to show. Still, he’ll be anxious to demonstrate the direction in which he wants to take the line. Anxiety and anticipation are very high here.
- Peter Copping left Oscar de la Renta. What the fuck? This one almost knocked me out of my chair when the announcement was made last month. It’s been less than two years since Oscar de la Renta named Copping as his successor and then promptly died. The match looked perfect. The past two season’s shows have been well received. What the fuck happened? No one on either side is talking. Copping promptly moved back to the UK. De la Renta will run with a design team for the time being. We are very confused and very sad.
- Bouchra Jarrar makes her debut at Lanvin. This looks to be one of the most highly anticipated shows of the season. Jarrar brings a different look, a more feminine look, back to Lanvin. That being said, shareholders are watching for a collection that resonates with buyers and increases sales. Will it work? We’ll see.
- Anthony Vaccarello takes over at Yves Saint Laurent. The whole attitude has changed at YSL. Vaccarello comes from Versus Versace and almost certainly is going to bring some of Donatella’s influence with him. Expect a sexier, more defined, and perhaps even a little edgier look than YSL saw under Hedi Slimane.
- Maria Grazia Chiuri changes things up at Dior. Following Raf Simons isn’t going to be easy. Dior took its sweet time replacing the famed designer and makes a bold statement in appointing the label’s first female creative director. Chiuri makes the leap from Valentino where she was co-creative director. Pierpaolo Piccioli now has sole authority over there.
Spending this season on the sidelines, still, are Alber Elbaz and Hedi Slimane. One really has to wonder why they’ve not been snatched up.
A Little Less Fur
Fur has long been a mainstay of luxury fashion and Angora has been the go-to fur for quite a while given the endangered status of wild sources. Then, Peta, the animal rights group, took aim at the Angora industry in 2013, claiming harvesting methods were cruel. Now, it seems Peta has won. Orders for the fur dropped dramatically for this season after more than 100 major labels suspended use of fabric. Other types of fur have seen dramatic declines as well. I have to admit that I’m curious as to whether Dennis Basso is reducing his use of fur at all. Historically, he’s been unapologetic about using fur and animal skin in general.
What’s next? Wool. A recent op-ed takes aim at the ubiquitous fabric, claiming that large-scale harvesting methods are just as cruel as those used on angora rabbits. Will this movement catch hold? The atmosphere certainly seems to be ripe for it, but the global use of wool peaks for the fall/winter season. We’re not likely to see any change until February.
What Season Is This?
We talked back in February about designers skipping the fall shows to go real-time this September. Well, September is here and we get to find out whether that strategy is going to work. Be sure, all eyes are watching Burberry, Tom Ford, and Rebecca Minkoff, among others, to see how they handle the straight-to-stores approach. Critical to this new look is whether consumers are confused by seeing both fall/winter looks and spring/summer looks in the same season. The seasonal look has been muted the past few years, with coats in spring and shorts in the fall almost being normal.
This change may work well, though, as designers look for alternative presentation methods. Criticism of the traditional runway approach grew rather heated back in February, but we’re not hearing much talk about the alternatives leading up to this season’s shows. Will Gloria Vanderbilt return to a runway approach or will she go with another fashion event that confuses the hell out of everyone? Talk back in the spring held that we would see more such presentations this fall, but as budgets have been trimmed to match declining profits much of that talk has disappeared.
A Little More Security
For people in Paris and London, the world feels less safe than it did back in February. Organizers in Milan and New York aren’t taking any risks, either. Whereas some designers had been flirting with the idea of open-to-the-public presentations, more care is being taken this fall to ensure the safety of everyone involved. Invitation requests are vetted with increased scrutiny and press credentials are more difficult to obtain. Guests lucky enough to attend an event will find security lines longer than ever. Restrictions on what guests can bring with them, including nail files and hair spray, are taken seriously.
Paris saw dramatically increased security last season but it didn’t seem to interfere with the overall spirit and celebration of the events. This season, though, there is a palpable difference in the tone. Multiple attacks across Europe have everyone looking over their shoulder. Supplier lists are under greater scrutiny. Location accessibility is a concern. In some cases, labels who might have traditionally sought a larger audience are scaling back a bit to reduce the risk.
Everyone wants fashion week to be fun and exciting, but the shadow of terrorism is impossible to escape.
Side Glance To Retail.
Macy’s is closing 100 stores. The announcement wasn’t a surprise. In fact, the retail conglomerate said earlier this year that store closings were coming. Yet, the impact was still like dropping a ton of bricks across the fashion industry. At the same time, China’s luxury market, which had been the one strong point in the industry, has begun a decline. No one is sure yet how much a hit global fashion brands might take but the Chinese government is making it clear they want those Yen to stay at home.
Meanwhile, both H&M and Lululemon are anticipating continued growth. Low-priced fast fashion is eating away at the luxury sector and forcing major labels to make changes to their corporate look. As much movement as there has been among designers, there’s been even more seat swapping among fashion’s corporate CEOs. Even Burberry’s Christopher Bailey had to take a back seat in the boardroom over the summer. No one wants to make a knee-jerk move that spooks the fragile market, but if sales don’t improve we may see even bigger shifts in the look of fashion by next February.
We Can’t Stop Watching
All that being said, interest in fashion is as high as ever. Fashion schools are experiencing prime enrollment numbers. Fashion magazines have retooled their look and enjoying higher numbers than this time last year. Instagram and Snapchat are full of fashionista-wannabes taking selfies of their latest look. Interest in fashion hasn’t waned one bit.
Everyone is being cautious, though. With so many changes hitting at the same time, this could be a very exciting season. We are hoping for a very exciting season. Strong interest in shows next month could do wonders for a slumping retail market. Don’t expect anything that looks like last year, though. This fashion look has changed dramatically. You may need to clean out your closet and start all over.
Prep your credit cards now. NYFW begins September 9.
Photography: charles i. letbetter