“This is an unprecedented Fashion Week. In the history of New York Fashion Week there has never been one like it,” declared Steven Kolb, the CFDA’s CEO, on a Zoom call. Indeed, in February there were 177 labels on Vogue Runway’s NYFW review calendar. The schedule the CFDA released today, which begins with Jason Wu at 5 p.m. on Sunday, September 13, and ends with Tom Ford at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, September 16, includes just 60. With only a handful of IRL exceptions, all of the presentations on the CFDA’s official lineup will be digital.
Among those not on the calendar: Michael Kors, who has announced an October date, Tory Burch, Proenza Schouler, Brandon Maxwell, and Prabal Gurung. In an email Gurung explained his thinking: “Since the pandemic forced us into lockdown, I’ve been talking to designers, retailers, suppliers, and factories all over the world. Everyone in the industry was running around playing catch up, with no actual goal in sight…. Whatever we put out there has to have a reason for its existence; pretty clothes are no longer enough. We need to really think about purpose and a mission.” He’s one of the designers looking at a later date in order to bring his presentation “closer to the time that shoppers will want to wear the pieces” he’s showing.
Familiar names that are returning to the CFDA calendar include Marchesa, Carolina Herrera, Zero + Maria Cornejo, and Anna Sui. Eckhaus Latta slipped into the time slot left open by Marc Jacobs’s absence. In addition, there’s a menswear showcase and a time slot for Harlem’s Fashion Row and the BIPOC designers its founder Brandice Daniel is supporting. The biggest surprise: Imitation of Christ, whose last NYFW appearance came in spring 2013. Rather ironically, given where we are now, IOC’s designer Tara Subkoff dubbed that collection “This Is Not a Fashion Show.”
At this point, Kolb and his colleagues know little about the type of digital content that will be living on the CFDA’s site, Runway360. “We connected people to content creators when they asked for intros,” he explained. “But at the end of the day the success of this for us isn’t who made an Academy Award winning film or who did the most innovative photo shoot. The barometer of success for us is: Were you able to see the clothes, able to write about them intelligently, and able to understand what is marketable to sell to your customers?”
A key difference between the CFDA and its Runway360 site and IMG and its NYFW.com site: The former is B2B and the latter is more B2C, with a schedule of livestreamed talks and IRL experiences that could include, say, an in-season shopping activation for a fall 2020 collection. That’s another difference: While Runway360 is a strictly digital platform, IMG has come up with a hybrid model, mixing in-person events with virtual ones made on the premises in its content hub. Jason Wu’s week-opening show at Spring Studios will take place on a runway with real models and a live audience. Earlier this week Governor Andrew Cuomo gave fashion shows his blessing; in a statement he said: “When COVID-19 hit New York, so many of our cherished events were forced to cancel or be postponed. The pandemic is far from over, but we’re proud to support IMG in moving forward with NYFW, in adherence with strict state public health guidance.”
Those precautions notwithstanding, the vast majority of the Fashion Week goings-on will be digital. On the CFDA’s calendar, designers and brands are scheduled on the half hour. In the end that may be the greatest virtue of a virtual Fashion Week. No traffic jams, no model delays, no waiting around endlessly for the front row to fill up. All efficiency. Just log on and click play. Of course, there are sure to be more off-calendar events and even more social media goings-on. Big picture, the pandemic has done to Fashion Week what it’s done to everything from office work to our social lives; it’s untethered it from place. The official calendars aside, the internet is a wide open space. Who knows who will chime in on the Fashion Week conversation? Or what they’ll have to say? That’s exciting.