With an abbreviated show schedule and as the coronavirus outbreak widened by the day, New York Fashion Week took on a surreal “stop the world, I want to get off” feeling — or, as one retailer put it, “The world is spinning at a million miles an hour.”
There were nonetheless a few “fashion moments,” including Marc Jacobs’ dance performance-cum-fashion show at the Park Avenue Armory on Wednesday night that closed NYFW to the sounds of thunderous applause.
Retailers acknowledged that the fashion and retail industries have been in the throes of convulsive change, and said NYFW may have been another inflection point.
“It’s been a strange one,” said Roopal Patel, senior vice president and fashion director of Saks Fifth Avenue. “It has been clear with this New York Fashion Week that there are changes in the air, for sure. The way we’ve all been looking at NYFW — that’s not going to be its future. We’re used to having a set calendar with designers showing on particular days at set times. This generation of talent doesn’t have to do things the same way. The world is a very different place. All of us are being held accountable to look at the world with a different lens.”
Addressing the coronavirus, Patel said, “This epidemic is incredibly unfortunate, and everyone is taking precautions and being responsible, and on a human level, everybody should be mindful. However, with technology, there’s so much access to fashion week in real time that everybody is feeling assured that people are putting health first, and they’re just grateful for technology.”
Some retailers who lamented the abbreviated show schedule on the one hand — with the absence of the likes of Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Pyer Moss and Tom Ford — were thankful for the lighter load, on the other. Executives praised technology for allowing them to view Ford’s show, although some criticized his decision to show in L.A. the Friday night before the Oscars, taking a lot of steam out of the first few days of NYFW.
“My favorite show, which I didn’t attendant, was Tom Ford,” said MaisonMarché founder Sarah Easley, who watched the event via live-stream on her computer. “I thought his show was spectacular, both for day wear and evening wear.
“We’re in this decade where every category is reinventing itself,” said Easley. “People are asking, ‘Is there a better way?’ With the industry so in flux, there are a lot of shifting ideas about how to present and sell clothes. There’s been a lot of innovation and changes in the process. I like the lighter schedule, unless you have something really unique to present, it’s OK, stay home.”
“Ralph Lauren is America,” said Ken Downing, chief creative officer of Triple Five Group, which on March 19 will open the initial retailers at American Dream, the 3.3-million-square-foot entertainment and retail center in East Rutherford, N.J. “It’s a miss that someone who’s such an important part of the NYFW landscape, and the American landscape, [is absent], and it sends a strong message. I’m sure he has his reasons.
“There’s the consternation over Tom [Ford] choosing to go to Hollywood [to show his collection,]” Downing added. “Our industry has tentacles in many other industries. We all rally around this NYFW moment, and we’re all, in our little or large ways, ambassadors.
“So many brands are using the globe as an international stage to present these epic, cinematic fashion shows, especially, for pre-fall,” Downing said. “These epic productions, which are like Hollywood productions, have in many ways usurped the excitement of the two seasonal NYFWs.”
Kelly Golden, founder and owner of Neapolitan, agreed. “Defecting to L.A. because you want to show there for the Oscars, if you’re truly a U.S. designer, you should show in New York. National pride has gone down, and designers are trying to go global and appease everyone. You have to figure out who your customer is, and show for them. I disagree with showing all over the country.”
Still, retailers saw a silver lining in the clouds. “It was clear that American fashion is alive, it’s kicking,” said Patel. “There’s so much excitement. [Young designers] are making their mark at heritage houses.”
“Thinning ranks [of buyers in the audience of shows], a pandemic, national politics…there were a lot of things hanging over NYFW besides just gray skies and rain, which affected the mood of the week,” said Linda Fargo, senior vice president of the fashion office and director of women’s fashion and store presentation at Bergdorf Goodman. “In the rear view mirror, though, and in spite of the many weighty and real issues, there emerged quite a few hopeful stories and experiences.
“There’s remarkable and promising momentum from the next tier,” said Fargo, referring to Khaite, Ulla Johnson, Brock Collection and Sies Marjan, among others. “On a serious note, and after spending time talking with justifiably distressed partners in market, it’s becoming clear that collectively as an industry, we may have to rally and get creative on how to support them [designers and brands] given critical production challenges and the many unfolding issues that will certainly compromise their businesses and lives.”
A few years ago, designers such as Phillip Lim, Derek Lam and Thakoon Panichgul were hailed by retailers as fashion’s “New Guard,” and while all three have achieved success, it hasn’t been without painful reinvention: Lim took a hiatus from a runway show this season to chart a new path, Lam recently sold his Derek Lam 10 Crosby brand, and Panichgul in 2017 went on hiatus, re-emerging in the fall with a direct-to-consumer collection and store on Manhattan’s Bleecker Street.
“I completely disagree with all the negativity about NYFW,” said Beth Buccini, founder and owner of Kirna Zabete. “Overall, I thought it was a fantastic week. We actually do great business with so many New York designers. We should be supporting and cheering these amazing designers. This new set of leaders is enormously talented and they deserve our respect.”
Here’s more of what retailers had to say about the collections:
Favorite collections: Brandon Maxwell; The Row; Proenza Schouler, and Marc Jacobs — my God, it was the ultimate New York experience. We’re sitting in darkness, and a dancer appears and launches into an interpretive dance, then a model appears, then another, one more beautiful than the other.
Trendspotting: Tailoring, leopard and color will be really important.
Roopal Patel, senior vice president and fashion director of Saks Fifth Avenue
Favorite collections: Carolina Herrera’s beautiful, happy and confident collection; Oscar de la Renta; Khaite, for making us want everything; Jason Wu, for a dreamy and beautiful collection; Brandon Maxwell’s evening wear and sportswear; Proenza Schouler’s urban cool, effortless chic Sies Marjan; The Row’s timeless wearable fashion, and Gabriela Hearst.
Trendspotting: Tailoring; statement knitwear and outerwear; effortless dressing; luxe and glamour such as feathers and embroidery, ball gowns and corsets; combat boots and Chelsea boots.
Talent scouting: Christopher John Rogers.
Sarah Easley, founder and owner of Maison Marche
Favorite collections: Tom Ford’s day wear and evening wear; 3.1 Phillip Lim New York-centric offering, harking back to his Great Jones Shop; Gabriela Hearst; Brandon Maxwell’s velvet cashmere corduroy looks; Adam Lippes, and Rodarte’s vampire Goth with Forties glamour.
Sorry, not sorry to see it go: I’m done with peasant styles and tiny florals.
Trendspotting: Unexpected Lurex fabrics and textures are a cool direction to go in. That’s enough newness for me.
Pet peeve: In general, I hate seeing celebrities wearing something that says, “I don’t own what I’m wearing, a stylist dressed me,” which happens a lot in the front row.
Linda Fargo, senior vice president of the fashion office and director of women’s fashion and store presentation at Bergdorf Goodman
Favorite collections: Khaite, Ulla Johnson, Brock Collection and Sies Marjan. The Row, Gabriela Hearst, Proenza Schouler and Jason Wu all presented collections which skillfully expressed their unique DNA’s with great results. Marc Jacobs closed NYFW with an experience [and] smart and inspiring clothes set against an engaging and especially relevant ballet made for our times.
Best venue: Adam Lippes and Phillip Lim broke old formats in favor of warm and convivial communal experiences.
Trendspotting: “Beautility,” quiet, luxe neutrals; new warm, earthy spice tones and evergreens.<
Must-have items: Leather and pleather pieces, novelty knits, plaids and men’s wear fabrics, and the Scrunchy is the new puffy in accessories.
Tiffany Hsu, fashion buying director at Mytheresa
Favorite collections: Khaite, for the rock ’n’ roll vibe, beautiful ankle-length coats and glorious dresses; The Row’s stunning suits, understated luxury and true understanding of materials and cut is really one-of-a-kind.
Talent spotting: Peter Do — it’s rare for a young U.S.-based designer to come out with such sophisticated and tailored pieces that are timeless, yet innovative, and wardrobe.nyc, for their simple and well-cut silhouettes. Every piece is a modern girl’s wardrobe essential.
Trendspotting: Yellow; minimalist cutouts and back details such as crystals and chains, and white on white layering.
Must-have items: The Row’s oversize envelope bag and boots; Khaite’s Western boots and Sies Marjan’s clogs.
Joseph Tang, women’s fashion director at Holt Renfrew
Favorite collections: Tom Ford’s star-studded show with its A-List celebrity guest list and red carpet-ready gowns screamed Hollywood glamour; The Row’s perfectly tailored suits and dreamy, draped coats offered an abundance of options for customers to add and layer on; and Oscar de la Renta’s optimistic cocktail and evening pieces in bright and bold colors.
Trendspotting: Relaxed and fluid silhouettes; monochromatic neutrals; elegant and sophisticated cocktail dresses in bright and bold jewel tones from Oscar de la Renta and Tom Ford.
Sorry, not sorry to see it go: Overtly feminine and juvenile printed dresses — short and ruffled printed dresses are starting to look a bit outdated.
Must-have items: Slouchy hobo bags paired with an oversize duster coat at The Row; Oscar de la Renta’s silk draped bustier in magenta, and Tory Burch floral print dresses x New York artist Francesca DiMattio.
Beth Buccini, founder and owner of Kirna Zabete
Favorite collections: Monse’s happy punk, downtown vibe and tartan plaid and trench coats; Sies Marjan’s color and textile mixes; Khaite; Carolina Herrera’s joyous clothes; Adam Lippes; Proenza Schouler’s modern edge, and Gabriela Hearst’s knitwear, tailoring, and luxe Seventies vibe.
Spark or no spark: Khaite, Proenza Schouler, Adam Lippes, Carolina Herrera, Gabriela Hearst, Monse, Sies Marjan, Tibi, and Brock all had such exciting shows.
Durand Guion, vice president of Macy’s fashion office
Favorite collections: Michael Kors for his take on town and country chic — a trend we are betting heavily for the season; Jason Wu’s play on color mixology; Brandon Maxwell’s evolution of American sportswear, and Longchamp’s beautiful use of leather and suede.
Trendspotting: Bold color; plaids; Seventies; dark and moody romance; leather dressing; winter florals, and monochromatic looks.
Must-have items: Capes, culottes, sweater dresses, trench coats, tall boots and Victorian-inspired dresses.
Customers’ temperature: Very inspired by what’s new and next; she may choose to buy fewer items per season, but she’s voting confidently for things that create excitement and that she gets credit for wearing.
Spark or no spark: More energy this season, and definitely more inspired design.
Vikki Kavanagh, buying and merchandising director of The Outnet
Favorite collections: Proenza Schouler’s sexy draping, The Row’s timeless pieces every editor and buyer will covet, and Monse’s grunge rebellion with some great tailored pieces.
Talent spotting: Christopher John Rogers’ trash bag-inspired gowns in highly saturated bold colors.
Must-have item: Deconstructed trench coats at Monse and Jonathan Simkhai.
Customers’ temperature: A desire to invest in classic pieces that will last longer than one season.
Spark or no spark: Designers like Khaite and Gabriela Hearst spark excitement for us as both brands have a style and ethos that resonates with our customer.
Kelly Golden, founder and owner of Neapolitan
Trendspotting: The sleeve; suits and tailored pieces; plaid in vibrant colors; lots of veils and head pieces; glamour — we’re getting from streetwear.
Pet peeve: People aren’t talking about how good the economy is — my shoppers are feeling comfortable to spend. Getting away from politics for designers is probably a good thing.
Denise Magid, executive vice president and general merchandise manager of ready-to-wear and concessions at Bloomingdale’s
Favorite collections: Fringe and knit dressing at Jonathan Simkhai, colors and texture at Ulla Johnson; asymmetric shapes at Hellessy, and layering at Rag & Bone.
Talent spotting: Christopher John Rogers
Say goodbye to: Animal prints.
Nicole Fischelis, fashion, art forecasting consultant
Favorite collections: Anna Sui ‘s mix of prints was remarkable; Sally LePointe’s minimal luxury, and Marc Jacobs’ unexpected return to Sixties Mod, and Tom Ford.
Trendspotting: A return to the pant suit and tailoring; the new minimalism, and super feminine and Victorian inspiration.
Sorry, not sorry to see it go: Victorian femininity, ruffles and bohemian floral, long dresses. Honestly, I’m getting tired of it.
Lisa Aiken, fashion director at Moda Operandi
Favorite collections: The Row; Gabriela Hearst’s investment pieces; Proenza Schouler for skewing sexier this season; Brandon Maxwell and Rodarte’s dramatic and romantic aesthetic.
Talent scouting: Bevza’s body-con knits and Nineties-inspired tailoring; Area’s crystal embellishment and Cristopher John Rogers’ bold-colored evening wear.
Trendspotting: Crochet, and a focus on craft; suede and leather; asymmetric necklines.
Customers’ mood: The Moda woman loves statement fashion and is emotional about purchases. We expect to see strong selling in the coming weeks from several NYFW shows.