If you build it, they will come?
The CFDA is finding that creating a new June/December New York Fashion Week is not quite the field of dreams it envisioned when the organization revealed in January its plan to shift the traditional fashion week model for main collections.
The official NYFW June schedule is out as of today and it’s thin. Set for the period between Sunday, June 3, and Thursday, June 7, the five-day stretch includes just four brands that have committed to showing their spring collections. Alexander Wang, who led the charge for this movement by resolutely announcing his decision to shift to a June/December fashion show schedule, has staked his claim on Sunday night, time TBD. (The CFDA Fashion Awards are June 4).
The designers who followed his lead include Narciso Rodriguez, showing June 4 at 10 a.m.; Rosie Assoulin, who’s showing June 5 from 4 to 6 p.m., and Lorod, which is showing from 2 to 3 p.m. on June 3. The other smattering of names on the list include CFDA chairwoman Diane von Furstenberg, Victor Glemaud, Badgley Mischka, Lela Rose, Carolina Herrera, Cushnie et Ochs, Anna Sui, Sachin & Babi, Dennis Basso, Johanna Ortiz, Rag & Bone, Tome and Maggie Marilyn, all of whom are showing their resort collections per the traditional resort calendar.
Then there’s Saint Laurent, which has scheduled a New York show for the evening of June 6, though Steven Kolb, the CFDA’s chief executive officer, admitted that the French brand made its decision independently of NYFW June. There’s no word yet on which season Saint Laurent will show, but best guesses are that it’s men’s and resort.
The first two weeks in June in New York are typically flush with resort appointments and presentations. The CFDA has never made official a pre-collection schedule, though Kolb mentioned that stamping out June NYFW was an attempt at reining in the resort collection sprawl. As for now, the list of designers showing resort that week is sparse, although more will certainly pop up. Yet there’s a significant number of big American and European names that plan to present resort outside of NYFW June, whether later on in the month or earlier in May.
During an interview at the CFDA’s offices on Tuesday, Kolb was candid that the schedule did not pan out the way he anticipated. “The commitment for the shift is limited,” he said. “I’m not sure why that is.”
When the CFDA first disclosed that it was seriously pursuing a June/December schedule in January, Kolb told WWD that the group had held discussions with brands, top editors, retailers, public relations firms and production teams to gauge interest in a summer/winter runway season. “I could see a collective of maybe five or so brands that have the right adjacency and might align to it,” Kolb told WWD at the time.
It was understood that prior to the January announcement, conversations were held with Sies Marjan, Altuzarra, Rodarte, Proenza Schouler and The Row about forming the core collective that would initiate the shift along with Wang, who was already planning to make the move. The CFDA hoped to bring Altuzarra, Rodarte and Proenza Schouler back to New York Fashion Week after all four labels, along with Thom Browne, took their shows to Paris Fashion Week in the last year. Proenza Schouler and Rodarte aligned to the couture schedule and Altuzarra and Thom Browne have shown during the main seasons. Their defections to Paris did not look good for New York Fashion Week.
None of the aforementioned labels have moved their spring/fall shows to the June/December New York schedule. Yet Kolb maintains that interest from brands is as high as it’s ever been, noting that “two very major, big American houses think this is a good idea.” Which two, he declined to say.
“For [the major brands] it’s like, ‘Who are the other big ones going and will the press come with it?’” said Kolb. “That has been a deterrent in terms of them shifting. There needs to be more of a mass migration and more of a pool of media there for them to weigh out.”
For smaller brands that don’t stage mega shows, shifting their main collections to June is less complicated and allows them to capitalize the efficiencies that come with condensing the pre- and main lines into one presentation.
Assoulin has built a profile on a relatively nascent, niche business. Since launching for resort 2014, she has never staged a runway show, opting instead for festive presentations. Her husband and chief executive officer Max said they decided to shift this season, combining the resort and spring collections into one show that will be split into two deliveries to free up the production cycle. “The current model is very difficult to sustain, especially for smaller designers,” said Max, noting they had been considering this shift for a few years. “We wanted to give ourselves time to really be creative and not be driven by constant deadlines of two to three months between collections.”
Rodriguez followed a similar line of thought. After years of staging a big 8 p.m. show during NYFW, Rodriguez scaled back in the past two seasons, showing his collection to a very small audience in his showroom for fall, a format he will adopt again for spring, which will also include his resort lineup. “We used to do very big shows and I wasn’t comfortable with that anymore, so we shifted to a smaller venue and did shows for 250 to 300 people, and that still felt very big to me,” said Rodriguez. “This is what’s right for me and my business. It’s right for my personal life. It’s why I changed last year, and I’m looking forward to having August off for the first time in 20 years.”
The CFDA is prepared to give the June/December calendar time to gain momentum. “We try it once, we try it two times. Maybe we try it three or four times,” said Kolb. “At any point it’s not working, then you stop doing it.”
Indeed, during NYFW in February, many designers were asking about the news that the CFDA was considering drastically moving fashion week dates, though none seemed ready to make a move in the short-term, if at all.
Now that the schedule is out, Joey Laurenti, ceo of Sies Marjan, said he was supportive of the CFDA’s initiative to create a new schedule for designers who are interested, thought it wasn’t right for his brand yet. “While we and our customers are happy with our current show schedule, we are mindful of the need to constantly evolve strategies, especially in today’s fast-paced and ever-changing retail environment,” said Laurenti.
Asked if he regretted publicizing the plans to pursue a shift to June/December before any major players aside from Alexander Wang committed, Kolb said no, though he’s puzzled as to why so many brands seemingly feigned interest. “We respond to what the industry wants, right?” Kolb said, his frustration obvious. “We don’t sit here at CFDA and decide what’s right or wrong. We service the designers, we service the industry. So when there is a swell of interest in an idea, we pursue that idea. That’s how we started Men’s Fashion Week. That’s why we’ve had a lot of civic engagement since the election — ACLU, Planned Parenthood, the Immigration Report, what we’re doing with Glamour and the gender study, which is coming out. We react, and of course, we strategize and are proactive. We did this, because we met here in January. I met with brands — big brands — and only one of them is there.”
To that end, Alexander Wang has chosen Sunday night for his spring show. Editors and retailers (and publicists and photographers and digital editors waiting on duty to edit photos and publish “assets”) will be obliged to work that weekend. Victor Glemaud and Lorod are scheduled for earlier in the day on Sunday. Asked if it was necessary for the official CFDA schedule to bleed into a weekend, especially considering how light the rest of the week is, Kolb deferred to Wang. “At the end of the day, the brands are going to do what they want to do,” said Kolb.
To a great extent, that has been the mantra the CFDA has adopted since it commissioned the Boston Consulting Group study in 2015 to troubleshoot New York Fashion Week, which had become increasingly a free-for-all. Conclusion: “Brands should do what’s right for them.”
Theoretically, that sounds nice, but in retrospect, it’s been a slippery slope. By issuing the “you do you” edict so freely, the CFDA tacitly absolved itself of control over who shows when and where, whether it’s Bushwick, Paris, Roosevelt Island, or the first Sunday in June. At least it’s not a summer Friday.