Alexander Wang

More change is coming to New York Fashion Week, although calling it a “week” is increasingly becoming a misnomer.

First, beginning with the spring 2019 collection, Alexander Wang will move his New York show to this June from September, adopting a new biannual schedule with collections presented in June and December. In tandem with Wang’s move, the CFDA has put into motion plans for an official summer/winter fashion season taking place as soon as June and December 2018.

CFDA president and ceo Steven Kolb couldn’t confirm that an event or dates have been officially sanctioned, but said that conversations took place between the CFDA, brands, top editors, retailers, public relations folks and production teams to gauge interest in a summer/winter runway season. “The idea is, could there be a core group of brands that sat well together and combined their interests to do something during pre-collections?” Kolb said in a telephone interview. “What does that mean? June or July or December or January? I’m not certain.”

According to Kolb the concept is still “hypothetical,” but, when asked if it could be happening this coming June or July he responded, “I could see it happening this summer,” adding, “I think for it to have any significance in terms of making a mark, I could see a collective of maybe five or so brands that have the right adjacency and might align to it.”

In terms of brands that have discussed potentially buying into a summer/winter show schedule, Kolb wouldn’t disclose names aside from Wang. “Alex is one of many designers the CFDA has spoken to about the idea, and we support him in this business decision,” he said. “There are others who are part of this idea.

It’s understood that Sies Marjan, Altuzarra, Rodarte and Proenza Schouler are among priorities. The latter three brands, along with Thom Browne, showed their spring 2018 collections in Paris, with Proenza Schouler and Rodarte aligning their shows to the couture calendar to get a jump on the market by combining their pre- and runway collections. The defections were seen as a loss to New York Fashion Week.

Browne and Altuzarra declined comment on the matter, while Rodarte and Proenza Schouler did not return WWD’s request for comment. All of the brands mentioned above are scheduled to show their fall collections according to their traditional plans. Proenza and Rodarte are presenting this month in Paris during couture. Altuzarra is showing in Paris in March and Sies Marjan is showing in New York in February. Regarding the potential shift to a June/December format, Joey Laurenti, chief executive officer of Sies Marjan, said he had no short-term plans to do so, but “in general, I think it’s a positive change and I support the shift. If they get enough of a critical mass of brands, we would absolutely participate.” A few other New York-based brands contacted about the initiative said they had not been approached on the subject.

That leaves Wang to lead the charge. In addition to breaking out of the conventional fashion calendar and moving to the pre-collection timing, the Wang collection will go to market only at these two times a year, instead of four, with more frequent, strategic product drops throughout the season.

Wang still plans to show his fall 2018 collection in New York on Feb. 10 at 8 p.m. at an undisclosed location.

“I am very much looking forward to showing in June in New York,” said Wang, creative director and chairman of the board of the privately held firm he founded in 2005. “I am grateful for the support of the CFDA which has helped guide us to explore different market ideas so we can more effectively address our business needs.”

This rethinking will provide new product more frequently, optimizing the development process and driving sales through a tighter focus on design, according to Wang. It is expected to streamline the brand’s runway calendar and increase its delivery cadence to bring it closer to consumers.

“We have been exploring many different approaches to our product launches through collaborations such as Adidas Originals and special capsules to measure customer response. Our shows will reinforce our brand’s DNA to our global customers and fans while we continue to be focused in our product offering. This new cadence will allow us to speak to our global customer in different conversations that are not limited to just fashion week twice a year,” the designer explained.

Lisa Gersh, chief executive officer of Wang, added, “Our customer will be better served through the new system. The innovative approach reframes product on the month that it ships, rather than the outdated labels of ‘resort’ or ‘pre-fall,’ giving our customers more relevant and consistent merchandise throughout the year.”

Under the new schedule, product shown in June will arrive between October and March, while product presented in December will arrive between April and September. Handbags, accessories and T by Alexander Wang will continue to be shown on the current market cadence.

Kolb stressed that should a June/December season commence in New York, it would not replace the traditional September/February schedule. But it would certainly splinter it. New York Fashion Week has been in a state of flux since the CFDA conducted a 2015 study with the Boston Consulting Group on the future of fashion shows to address industry discontent with the standard system. The study’s findings can be summarized as “brands and designers should do what’s best for them.” It galvanized interest in see-now-buy-now from major players such as Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren and Tom Ford, though interest in that model has waned, and heightened the discussion of timing shows to the pre-seasons to leverage buyers’ budgets, the majority of which are devoted to pre-collections.

Ken Downing, senior vice president and fashion director of Neiman Marcus, said that he had not been involved of any discussions regarding shifting the New York calendar. “As a new idea and initiative, if we’re looking to reinvent what fashion week is and put a greater focus on pre-collections, I appreciate that and any ideas to make our industry stronger,” he said. “But when we dabble in littler ideas, where there’s not enough collective force behind it, it doesn’t pick up any steam. To shift the calendar as we know it and make fashion week earlier is going to take a large group of very important brands to embrace the idea otherwise it has no impact.”

Kolb also noted that the CFDA has yet to formalize discussions of shifting to a summer/winter schedule with the other international fashion organizations, including the British Fashion Council, the Chambre Syndicale and the Camera Nazionale della Moda. It stands to note that the majority of debate on when and how to show has mostly centered around American designers, while their European counterparts, particularly in Milan and Paris, seem satisfied with the way things are.

New York has found itself in this position before. In July of 1998, Helmut Lang informed WWD that he would change the date of his upcoming spring show to precede the European collections. At the time, New York showed spring in November after Europe, which, Lang argued, was “just too far back for our house.” The very next day, Calvin Klein, long frustrated with the schedule, followed suit, thus sparking frenzied debate on two continents. Opinions ranged from Klein’s endorsement — “Absolutely, we needed this push” — to Pierre Bergé’s accusation of inciting anarchy. In the end, Lang’s way prevailed. Spring 1999 saw a split season in New York; by fall, the city’s industry was united in showing first.

The history of “the Helmut Lang moment,” as its referred to internally at the CFDA, is not lost on Kolb. The forthcoming schedule switcheroo, should the right brands commit, “could be that kind of moment,” he said. “There are already some brands that are [showing on the summer/winter schedule], not necessarily in New York, and other brands that are likely to do it. If the idea comes to fruition, I could see a return to New York for some of the brands that left.” Should that happen, Wang will likely get credit for being the new Lang.