The Council of Fashion Designers and IMG, which are working hand-in-hand this season to organize New York Fashion Week, are anticipating a smooth return to live shows — provided no one comes down with the Delta variant.
With the variant wreaking havoc in cities across the U.S., both organizations are taking health and safety precautions very seriously, requiring proof of vaccination for entry, recommending showgoers wear masks inside and reducing the number of people allowed in each venue. All models, hair and makeup stylists and photographers and anyone working backstage and on the premises (along with pre-production crew) must be vaccinated as well.
Some 91 shows and presentations are on the Official NYFW schedule, including shows by Michael Kors, Tory Burch, Tom Ford, Oscar de la Renta, Carolina Herrera, Altuzarra, Phillip Lim, Proenza Schouler, Jason Wu, Rodarte, Brandon Maxwell, Kevan Hall, Victor Glemaud, Khaite and Staud.
There’s no Marc Jacobs, Ralph Lauren or Tommy Hilfiger this time around.
The shows will run from Sept. 8 through Sept. 12.
Steven Kolb, chief executive officer of the CFDA, and Leslie Russo, president of IMG’s Fashion Events and Properties, came together for a joint (virtual) interview to discuss what’s on tap for NYFW and why this season is so different from every other one.
“Obviously it’s the first live in-person fashion week after two mostly virtual seasons,” said Kolb. “The response from the designers, which Leslie can confirm, we had great interest from the fashion community. They were ready to come back. Also, the editors and buyers wanted to be back in person. Clearly we’ve been very careful with COVID-19 and safety precautions, but I just think there’s an enthusiasm and energy in being back together.
“There’s also the idea of New York City, a city that was hit hard in COVID-19, and is really investing in not just NYFW but in the resilience or the creativity of the personality of New York. I think all of that will reflect in NYFW,” added Kolb.
Addressing whether the Delta variant could impact the shows, Russo said, “After a year and a half, we have vetted our health and safety plan starting last summer directly with New York State. I feel we have been in lock step in really keeping with our vaccination mandate, with our CDC guidance. I think CFDA and IMG have been hand-in-hand in making sure everyone can get back to work safely. People are moving forward with their events. As things change, we’ll pivot. It seems right now that things are moving forward as planned.”
“We watched this pretty closely,” added Kolb. “But at any point where we need to make an assessment on how things should be done differently, we’ll make that. Brands are doing that personally.” He noted that Clear has come on to provide free service to a number of brands that will be showing. People can use bar codes and can check into a show without having to show their vaccination cards.
Clear’s Health Pass is a mobile experience on the Clear app that securely links a user’s verified identity to COVID-19 proof of vaccination to reduce public health risk. Showgoers just need to download the free Clear app, enroll and verify their identity, select the Health Pass feature, find the NYFW tile, and add their proof of vaccination.
Asked how they plan to work the entry points, Russo said they arranged their main venues so the capacities are smaller than they have been historically. People can enter Spring from the Varick Street side, or from the back entrance at St. John’s Lane.
Besides Spring, the main hub of NYFW: The Shows, designers will be showing all over town.
“Spring Studios has been the official hub for the past seven seasons, this being the eighth. That said, I think it’s unrealistic for every show to fit into one venue. We support designers whether they’re on the official footprint of Spring Studios, or not. I’m very happy this season, and I think Steven would agree, to see so many New York State and New York City iconic locations as the backdrop of their shows as a celebration of the resilience of our city and state,” said Russo.
Kolb said that designers have chosen iconic outdoor spaces, transportation hubs, empty loft spaces, and hospitality spaces. Kolb and Russo declined to reveal where individual shows will take place, saying it’s up to the individual designers to disclose.
But it was learned that Tory Burch will be showing on the street in SoHo; Cinq à Sept has chosen a new downtown restaurant, Saga, while Christian Siriano is showing at Gotham Hall. The Dundas show will be at Casa Cipriani; Gabriela Hearst will show at the Greenpoint Terminal Warehouse in Brooklyn; Markarian will present at the Rainbow Room; Maisie Wilen’s show will be at the Standard Boom Boom Room; Thom Browne is showing at Hudson Yards, and Dennis Basso is showing at Rockefeller Plaza.
“There’s going to be a real New York vibe to it,” said Kolb. He noted that every venue will be checking for proof of vaccination, which was their mandate. “Ultimately, what process a show uses will come down to who they produce with and how they put their show up,” said Kolb. “What remains in place is vaccine requirement, of course, the exception being for health reasons, where someone is unable to.”
Russo said IMG will have masks available at every entry point.
“I will be wearing a mask at at every show,” added Kolb.
Russo said the 11 designers involved with IMG’s Fashion Alliance (Telfar, Rodarte, Proenza Schouler, Altuzarra, Brandon Maxwell, Prabal Gurung, Sergio Hudson, Monse, Jason Wu, LaQuan Smith and Markarian) will be showing at Spring and at places around the city. IMG is providing a variety of resources, from financial support to securing venue and back-of-house support.
As for some of the anticipated highlights of the week, Kolb said the week starts with Ulla Johnson on Sept. 8. and ends with Tom Ford on Sept. 12. “In between that, you have a mix of new and young talent, but also expected and returning designers. The fact that Thom Browne and Joseph Altuzarra will be showing in New York after many seasons in Paris is a strong statement for New York. Keep in mind, too, both of those designers won the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund. Their roots are in New York. Having Moschino, Peter Dundas and Peter Do is significant.” He said the 10 finalists of the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund are on the calendar as well.
“Without breaking it out in terms of number, what you have in American fashion is the most diversity, both on the runway and in terms of talent. We’ve invested a lot of effort to make sure there’s that kind of inclusion,” said Kolb.
For the third season, IMG is continuing its partnership with the Black in Fashion Council. There will be 14 new or returning designers coming through the showroom as a discovery platform.
Russo said some of the alumni of the showroom are showing in a big way during NYFW such as Theophilio and Kenneth Nicholson. She said Alexandra O’Neill of Markarian, who dressed First Lady Jill Biden, will be having her first New York fashion show.
IMG reorganized the main venue at Spring which can accommodate up to 400 people. Historically, that particular space accommodated 600. They are also offering an outdoor venue at the Spring Rooftop.
The CFDA/ Vogue Fashion Fund event will take place Sept. 8 — opening day — at Spring Place at Spring Studios. The designers, judges, and past winners of the CFDA Vogue Fashion Fund will attend the late afternoon event, which will act as a kick-off event for NYFW.
What was notable this year was CFDA’s and IMG’s collaboration on the Fashion Calendar, and how closely both CFDA and IMG are currently working together. But Kolb and Russo said that they’ve always worked together.
“We’ve worked together this season as we’ve always been. Leslie and I have a very close relationship. We both have teams that interact on the calendar, on health issues this season, on overall direction of fashion week. It’s always been there, it’s something we’ve never really talked about. It’s just a lack of clarity about what the relationship has been and often is confusing to people. I guess the difference really this season is we wanted to be more articulate so that people understand there’s a unified energy, a force for planning around New York Fashion Week,” said Kolb.
For example, NYFW: The Talks will release a research study exploring the correlation between Fashion Week participation and its retail impact, in a panel featuring U.S. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, Russo, Afterpay cofounder and co-CEO Nick Molnar, Moda Operandi cofounder and chief brand officer Lauren Santo Domingo, and Liberty Fairs cofounder Sharifa Murdock.
“What we’ve seen is a community coming together, a fashion community putting its best foot forward and really joining forces and investing in our homes and businesses and is very unique to America. We look out for and we take care of each other. That’s what I think is happening this fashion week,” said Kolb.