NEW YORK, United States – Rebecca Minkoff can normally count on as many as 800 people to pass one of her presentations at New York Fashion Week. Suffice to say the numbers will be lower this year, but the show will go on.
“There is an ecosystem that needs to be fed,” she said. “It’s not just about one fashion week, it’s about getting back to creativity, let’s get back to business.”
The designer is one of the few who will be showing their latest collections to a live audience at Spring Studios and other locations around the city next month. Spring, which usually hosts a multitude of wall-to-wall shows during fashion week, is adjusted to meet the strict health guidelines set by New York State. The site’s elevators are limited to four people per trip (impatient editors have the option to take the freight elevator or the stairs). For shows and presentations there is a maximum of 50 people. The entrance tent, where crowds of well-dressed cardholders and gatekeepers make their way in, is being completely demolished.
It was not certain until recently that New York Fashion Week would include physical events at all. IMG, that along with the Board of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), did not receive approval from the State of New York to hold events at Spring Studios until late last week. New York has reopened at a slower pace than much of the rest of the US, which as a country is lagging far behind Europe in bringing the pandemic under control.
So while brands like Versace and Prada announced their triumphant return to the Milan runway weeks ago, many of the big draws from New York Fashion Week, including Tory Burch, Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors and Gabriela Hearst said they skip the season or show it elsewhere. Most of the remaining brands have opted for digital content streamed on Instagram or the CFDA’s new platform, Runway360. Relatively few hold physical presentations or shows.
Minkoff said her initial tendency was to skip the week altogether, then decided to schedule a digital event (her brand operates under the buy-now model, and last fashion week’s presentations were too buy to an online audience). About six weeks ago she started working with IMG on a physical presentation. The company also works with Christian Siriano and Jason Wu to host personal presentations and shows, with all three designers sponsored by the Lowe’s construction chain.
Minkoff said she doesn’t expect any problems filling the room (at least until the tight limited capacity). The event will also be streamed and can be purchased on Instagram.
“I don’t think every editor has been able to go to the Hamptons,” Minkoff said. “Enough things are happening that people can turn it into an event. And do people not want to get out at the moment? “
However, getting people to pay attention to a largely digital fashion week can prove challenging.
Even before the pandemic, New York Fashion Week struggled to attract the kind of global brands that can draw an international crowd of editors, buyers and celebrities. CFDA became President in February Tom Ford screened in Los Angeles, while other American designers have chosen Paris every season (or none at all) or shows in different cities.
The pandemic has also wreaked havoc on many brands’ finances and forced some retailers into bankruptcy, prompting calls for an end to seasonal collections.
Digital presentations and films, which were initially seen as a promising alternative while the personal audience was not at the table, were received lukewarm in Europe and Asia. Many, but not all, of the brands that found the largest online audience tended to be the ones with the largest production budgets.
Both the CFDA and IMG are launching digital hubs to support brands opting for virtual shows. The CFDA’s Runway360 will host brands’ weekly fashion content, including more overtly commercial elements such as digital showrooms where buyers can place orders. IMG plans to post more consumer-focused content on NYFW.com, which it owns.
“Together we came up with a plan that we think will work,” said Leslie Russo, executive vice president of fashion, events and properties at IMG. It won’t be exactly the same. I don’t consider it less. “
For most designers who organize virtual events, the challenge is “to collect the RSVPs and get the coverage,” said Amanda Carter, founder of PR firm Modeworld, who has collaborated with Eckahus Latta, Collina Strada, Sandy Liang, and other independent designers. .
She said most of her clients on the CFDA program in September will be presenting collections digitally, either via Instagram Live or on websites specializing in “movie-like” event screenings that can only be viewed live. One of these, which she didn’t want to name, will host a ‘guerrilla-style’ personal event in New York and Los Angeles.
For both physical and digital shows, the plan is to send out invitations and rely on pre-existing relationships with buyers, editors and influencers to make sure people are paying attention.
“It’s business as usual when it comes to fashion week, get in touch [editors] and say ‘Hey, this is what we do, are you interested in coverage?’ Carter said. “It’s a pitch like anything else.”
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