Maybe they were worried about their pancake recipe being leaked — or bad reviews of the coffee.
Whatever the reason, the Council of Fashion Designers of America insisted on strict secrecy about an invitation-only breakfast at the group’s headquarters in SoHo on Tuesday to rally men’s wear designers and create enthusiasm for the inaugural New York Fashion Week: Men’s, slated for July 14 to 16 at Skylight Clarkson Square. The CFDA invited only designers, publicists, trade-show operators and long-lead press and left two WWD reporters out in the cold — literally.
But as the CFDA should know, the fashion world loves to do nothing more than gossip — and we’re not talking about Edward Snowden and National Security Agency scandals here. So a few quick queries (down the block from the venue) and phone calls (on phones that may or may not have been tapped by the CFDA) stirred up the following:
• There continues to be anxiety over the event’s timing, given it will lengthen the men’s season to more than a month;
• The CFDA still needs at least one more major sponsor;
• The organization previewed its new logos for women’s and men’s fashion weeks, which are inspired by New York’s sports team and are orange and blue (let’s hope they’re the colors of the season);
• “Ambassadors” will be sought for men’s fashion week, who will be American celebrities or sports figures known for their style.
Among the brands in attendance at the standing-room-only event were Timo Weiland, Orley, Carlos Campos, Ovadia & Sons, Michael Bastian, Public School, Ernest Alexander, Duckie Brown, Siki Im, the public relations teams from Calvin Klein and Michael Kors, Nick Wooster, Erin Hawker from New York Men’s Day and the publicists or organizers of the major trade shows including Liberty, Capsule, MRket and Project. Magazine editors Jim Moore from GQ and Nick Sullivan from Esquire were also there.
“It was really just a rallying cry,” said one attendee — who, naturally, requested anonymity. “It was meant to get people excited,” said another.
Much of the meeting focused on the logistics for the upcoming event. “They talked a lot about the space,” said one insider. CFDA expects to have about 20 shows in two venue rooms that can be configured in different ways to accommodate up to 450 people. “They’re also looking into getting a presentation space for emerging designers,” the insider said.
KCD was introduced as the public relations agency for NYFW: Men’s and its president, Ed Filipowski, spoke to the gathering about the plan to attract press to the event, particularly from overseas. One attendee said the editors from France are already asking for sponsorship dollars to fly them over for the event.
One change is that New York Men’s Day, the showcase for emerging designers spearheaded by Hawker of Agentry PR, will now be held on Monday, July 13 and the CFDA shows will run Tuesday through Thursday. NYMD is expected to have at least 12 to 14 designers participating, and it is sponsored by Cadillac.
At the breakfast, CFDA said it was still negotiating to bring another one to two sponsors into its event to join Amazon and its fashion sites — Amazon Fashion, East Dane and MyHabit — as well as DreamWorks and Shinola, which have already signed on. “They brought NYMD into the fold,” said an attendee, “so it wouldn’t surprise me if Cadillac signs on for the whole thing.” But that was not revealed on Tuesday, the attendees stressed.
CFDA will need more cash, either from the car company or someone else, if it hopes to fill the seats with editors and buyers from outside of New York.
Several attendees said while they hope the event will be a success, a couple of cracks have started to emerge in the grand plan. Perhaps the biggest issue is the fact that the men’s trade shows — Project, Liberty, Capsule, Agenda and MRket — are not starting until the week after the shows, meaning that retailers hoping to attend both will have to stay in New York for seven to 10 days during the dog days of summer — and at a time when many men’s wear executives have traditionally taken their summer vacations after the European shows.
In the future, attendees said, the CFDA is hoping to at least have its event end the day before the trade shows start. Trade-show organizers and CFDA agree they should not run concurrently, but that buyers would be better served if the dates were more closely aligned.
The CFDA also took the opportunity to show off the preliminary creative materials for NYFW, both men’s and women’s. The logo, which one attendee said was “weird” and another said was “nice,” was inspired by New York’s sports teams and will be Mets and Knicks blue and orange. Billboards to help market the shows were also displayed. “Although it showed a girl, not a guy,” one said. “They told us to just imagine it was a dude.” Another noted: “They’re going to brand both under one umbrella and there will be a media buy around it, but they didn’t provide any details.”
“They also want everyone to push on social media,” one designer said, “and they’re hoping to have a celebrity or two associated with the event.” In London, where the launch of the country’s men’s initiative in 2012 is considered a resounding success, the model David Gandy is an ambassador for the shows.
Although most attendees feel generally positive about the upcoming fashion week, some are not convinced that it’s going to be a runaway success — at least right out of the box.
“They’re going to have a hard time,” one designer said, pointing to the fact that many men’s editors and merchants will have had their fill of shows by mid-July. “There are going to be ups and downs until they get it right,” another noted.
A market source close to some of the designer brands said the CFDA is still seeking to fill the calendar with additional brands to make it more appealing to editors and buyers. Designers who have committed to participate include Calvin Klein Collection, Michael Kors, Rag & Bone, Public School, Billy Reid, Todd Snyder, Michael Bastian, Ovadia & Sons, Robert Geller, Duckie Brown, Patrik Ervell, Timo Weiland and Kent & Curwen. Tommy Hilfiger, an early champion of the initiative, will also take part in some form. But not all of the designers will hold runway shows. Calvin Klein and John Varvatos, for instance, still intend to show in Milan, while Thom Browne will remain in Paris. And Ralph Lauren has not committed to participate in any way.
Steven Kolb, chief executive officer of the CFDA, declined to comment on Tuesday.