Will the Oscars Crush New York Fashion Week?

by | Feb 8, 2020 | Art, Fashion

Will the Oscars Crush New York Fashion Week?

A scheduling conflict for the fashion ages.

Jason Wu, with this models, after his spring 2020 runway show in September.
Jason Wu, with this models, after his spring 2020 runway show in September.
Credit: Vincent Tullo for The New York Times

By Jessica Testa

As New York Fashion Week approached, so too did the insider drama of the show calendar. Which designers are skipping this season? Who is switching cities at the last minute? Who is left?

One conflict on the schedule stands apart: The 92nd Academy Awards, one of the most high-profile fashion events of the year, are on Sunday, right in the middle of fashion week.

The overlap is an anomaly; the awards show is scheduled two weeks earlier than usual in 2020 and will revert to late February next year. But it means that this year, many red carpet designers are pulling double duty, and that front-row seats reserved for A-list clients at the runway shows may be harder to fill.

It’s another complication in an already complicated season for the Council of Fashion Designers of America, which manages the New York Fashion Week calendar.

In an email, Steven Kolb, the chief executive of the CFDA, said that when his organization learned of the conflict, it “took initiative to have an open dialogue with designers” about their time slots, “in order to best support them.” He said the global spotlight of the Oscars red carpet “complements NYFW.”

For the red carpet designers who have decided to show in New York, preparing for both events simultaneously has been “a juggling act,” said Mark Badgley, of the label Badgley Mischka. “A roller coaster,” James Mischka said.

The two designers have been zipping nominees into elegant beaded gowns for more than 20 years. They spoke to The New York Times on a hectic morning eight days before their runway show and nine days before the awards. Several models were due soon for fittings.

“You’re looking at your sewing machines and weighing out, ‘Does that machine go to an Oscar dress, or does it do a runway sample?’” Mr. Badgley said.

At that moment, they were working on two gowns for the Academy Awards. That’s nothing compared with the 30 to 50 looks they present on a runway during any given season. Still, these two red carpet gowns — if they survive the last-minute celebrity mind changing and actually make it to the Oscars — could attract more attention from the general public than a fashion show.

Yet shows still matter to many designers. In an email, Brandon Maxwell, who dressed Lady Gaga, Melissa McCarthy and Sarah Paulson at the 2019 Oscars, said that “from a business and brand perspective NYFW is the priority, so we are focusing our efforts and resources there.” His show is scheduled the night before the awards.

At one point, the best way for designers to draw attention to a runway show was to put celebrities in their front row. This, too, has become difficult with the overlapping calendar, especially for labels whose shows are scheduled closest to the Oscars.

(The Badgley Mischka, show will end more than 24 hours before red carpet coverage begins, so the designers have it easier than others. Still, it is not ideal; because of the show’s proximity to the awards, its 2020 invite list focuses more on New York-based V.I.P.s than in years past.)

“I would be very concerned if I was one of those designers,” said Jessica Morgan of the celebrity fashion blog Go Fug Yourself, referring to the shows scheduled during the Oscars coverage. Ms. Morgan spent about a decade covering fashion week for New York magazine and Cosmopolitan. Awards season is her website’s biggest traffic period of the year.

“For one thing, you’re not going to have any celebrities there — maybe a few, but not anyone big,” she said. “And no big stylists are going to be able to attend their show because they’re going to be putting clients in Oscar or Vanity Fair Oscar party outfits.”

One designer scheduled for Sunday evening is Jason Wu, a celebrity favorite. (Mr. Wu declined to comment for this article.) Otherwise, the CFDA appears to have worked around fashion week’s big names. Prabal Gurung has shown on Sunday evening for the last four seasons; this year, he has been moved to Tuesday evening.

Others showing Sunday night include the street wear label Palm Angels; the futuristic swimwear-and-more label Chromat; and Kim Shui, who has dressed Kylie Jenner and Cardi B. Those designers may not be as disappointed as one might expect. Ms. Shui doesn’t care that her show is scheduled for 8 p.m., when the Oscars ceremony begins. The audiences are “different,” she said.

“We do have some front-row guests who might not be able to make it on the same day, but for us that’s not important,” said Ms. Shui, whose front row in the past has included Kehlani and Azealia Banks. “The people that would be coming to our show would be coming to our show anyway.”

Last season was more of a problem, she said, when her show was scheduled at the same time as the monster Savage x Fenty show. Diverse models Ms. Shui likes to cast were already booked by Rihanna, the Fenty designer.

A few years ago Badgley Mischka was scheduled at the same time as the Super Bowl, a considerably less fashion-centric event than the Oscars but nevertheless one that some of the designers’ guests — namely the presidents of retail companies — didn’t want to miss. So they put on their runway show at halftime and turned the game on backstage.


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