Raf Simons

New York Fashion Week: Men’s just got a marquee name to add to the roster for its fourth edition: Raf Simons.

The Belgian designer said Friday that he will join the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s official men’s schedule and will show his men’s collection on Feb. 1 in New York City for the first time. In the past, he has shown his signature collection in Paris. He has not yet revealed the venue.

Steven Kolb, president and chief executive officer of the CFDA, said the addition of Simons to the lineup is part of the group’s ongoing efforts to attract internationally known designers to the fledgling event. “He’s a very talented guy and a world-class designer who brings a whole new level and perspective to the shows,” Kolb said.

Whether other high-profile names jump on board remains to be seen.

“We won’t start scheduling designers for a few weeks,” Kolb said. “But we were happy to announce him joining the roster. From our side, we’ve worked hard to build something strong over the past three seasons and we’re excited Raf wants to show in New York.”

The news that Simons is shifting his men’s show to Manhattan comes on the heels of the designer being appointed creative director at Calvin Klein. The New York-based Calvin Klein has not said when Simons will show his first collection for that company, although speculation is that it is likely to be during the women’s shows in February rather than during New York Fashion Week: Men’s. The brand has shown its men’s line in Milan during that city’s men’s fashion week in January in past seasons. Simons was traveling and unavailable to comment further and spokespeople from Calvin Klein did not respond.

But with Simons now committed to showing in New York, it may lead to other big names jumping in. While the shows lost some well-known brands last July — Rag & Bone opted to show men’s and women’s together during the women’s shows, and Billy Reid chose to do something in his home town in Alabama — the CFDA is open to them returning. “We will continue to bring people back who’ve left and bring in new people, and adding someone of the caliber of Raf will only add to the roster,” Kolb said.

The men’s shows will be held Jan. 30 to Feb. 2 at Skylight Clarkson North in Tribeca, the CFDA said Friday. This places the runway shows about a week after the trade shows that traditionally draw retailers to New York City in January. Project, Liberty Fairs and MRket will be held Jan. 23 to 25. Last season, Liberty Fairs and Capsule overlapped with the runway shows while Project and MRket were held the following week.

The addition of Simons to the New York show calendar will undoubtedly give the season a major boost. While the shows have generated buzz over the last few seasons, retailers and press have complained that the New York edition has lacked a major name to put it on par with Milan, Paris, or even London. While Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Michael Kors, Thom Browne and other New York designers have held events or presentations during the shows, none have held a runway show. John Varvatos, Joseph Abboud and Todd Snyder have staged shows, however, as have many emerging designers.

Kolb bristled about the criticism that the big-name designers don’t participate in NYFW: Men’s. “Just because Thom shows in Paris and Calvin in Milan and Ralph was not there, people say it’s some kind of statement against NYFW: Men’s. But it’s a business decision that each brand makes and what the CFDA does is support designers to make the decisions that are best for them. We don’t see it as a negative, we celebrate it.”

He also sees the New York men’s shows as an opportunity to showcase new faces. “When you look at American men’s wear, there’s a lot of sportswear and athleisure,” he said, “and we’re focused on developing the more-directional designer brands.” He said that while some of the emerging labels participated in a Samsung-sponsored showcase including Brett Johnson, Devon Halfnight Leflufy, Garciavelez, Second/Layer and others, “they’ve been overlooked.” But with Simons’ participation, that could change next year.

“I’ve heard a lot of conversations about the demise of NYFW: Men’s, but that’s so far from the truth,” he said. “We’re committed to it.”

CFDA also said that its sponsors are returning for another year, including Amazon Fashion, East Dane, Cadillac, Axe and Samsung, among others. The application to be listed on the official NYFW: Men’s schedule is now open for all returning designers, with new designer applications launching on Oct. 31.

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