Virtual Fashion May Erase Some Irritants from NYFW

Photo by WWD/Shutterstock (10555175e)

“Change is inevitable. Growth is optional.” —John Maxwell

COVID19 had changed the way the entire globe is operating right now.  A lot of industries have taken massive hits. The fashion industry is experiencing huge losses and a shocking number of fashion brands and retail stores are going bankrupt. Just recently, Century 21 has been dropped by their insurers and, unable to get coverage, has announced its closing. 

New York Fashion Week (NYFW) is so important to the industry that it could not be canceled outright, but safety has demanded radical change. “It’s a very different fashion week in September. Not like we’ve never seen before. And, because of the pandemic, the industry is having to address the way they show the spring ‘21 collections,” said Steven Kolb, CEO at the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), to “Spectrum 1 News.”

The CFDA has opted for a virtual fashion week using a new online platform called Runway 360.  Ninety-five percent  of the designers who had planned to show at NYFW have committed to this change.

“I’m not quite sure how fashion week is going to roll out. Will I miss all the air-kissing and hugging? September Fashion Week was always like back to school. You see everyone,” said Fern Mallis, former CFDA director.

Will these changes become permanent? It’s impossible to say right now, but Fashion Reverie will acknowledge there are aspects to NYFW, as we knew it, that wasn’t so fabulous, and a virtual fashion could possibly eliminate them. Get ready for some truth bombs.

Image courtesy of Cameron Grey Rose

The late start of shows

Many fashion shows start late and we’re not talking about 10 or 15 minutes, some start over an hour late. The photograph above was taken on February 6th outside of Spring Studios while waiting for the Muzkin x Harbin 2020 show. The show was set to begin at 9 am. This photo was taken at 9:10 am when crowds still hadn’t been let inside, which means the show was going to start 45 minutes late!

There are a host of reasons why the shows are delayed but one big cause is the models. With venues so spread out during NYFW, models are often late to shows because they have shows booked on top of each other at venues, spread out over NYC. Also, if the models are not established, they cannot afford a car service, which means they are stuck taking public transportation which can delay their arrival.

Add to that, sometimes models are paid in clothes—called paid for trade—if they are paid at all.  If a paying job pops us, they will jump at it and not show up for the unpaid work, forcing organizers to scramble to replace them.  Just getting the models ready can take a long time. To save money, a lot of the production assistants are young, inexperienced volunteers from FIT (or other fashion schools), and they sometimes make mistakes that create problems.  The simple logistics of getting hundreds of people in and out of small spaces takes time, so as the day rolls on things get pushed back forcing everyone’s schedules off. 

If the shows are taped in advance the videos can simply be aired on a schedule (or watched when it’s convenient for the viewer).

Image courtesy of

 Front row tyranny

One basic reality of fashion week, unless you are a buyer, an editor for a major magazine, or a celebrity, you won’t be sitting in the front row. How it works: after you RSVP for a show, you will receive an email confirming your attendance for that show.  Once you arrive, if you are lucky, you are assigned a seat. Sometimes you are placed in the standing section.

Right before the fashion starts, PR interns will ask standing room to move to the empty seats. The last-minute scoot forward can create big problems. Sometimes people will be moved up to the front row only to have the person who was assigned that seat show up. The person who was moved up now has no choice to go to the back row. Anna Wintour’s last-minute appearances plus any A-list guests she brings with her will automatically be seated in the front row regardless of who is forced to move.

If you have any social or industry standing, the first two rows are the only place where people seated will be included in pictures.  Above is a pic of Fashion Reverie’s Cameron Grey Rose in the third row at Taoray Taoray in September 2019.

Before his passing, Oscar de la Renta grew so weary of front row politics he would snake an extra-long runway through a room with exactly two rows and only close personal friends and the critical staff were invited.

Virtual fashion week means that everyone has a front row seat while viewing from their laptop or smartphone.

Image courtesy of

NYFW burnout factor

Due to the extreme delays in scheduling, you will spend 90% of NYFW standing in line, waiting to get into venues or sprinting between shows. Many people complain that their feet hurt for DAYS after NYFW. Taxis are few and far between and good luck competing with two hundred people for the handful of Ubers available.  Journalists, buyers, models, and other industry professionals were forced to endlessly race all over the city. During the painfully warm month of September, you are dripping in sweat and packed like sardines at the shows.

Watching the shows from your couch suddenly sounds like heaven—it conserves time, energy, and you don’t have to worry about being crowded by other people.

Image courtesy of Vogue Business

The production costs

One of the dirty little secrets of the fashion industry  is that despite the appearance of glamour and wealth, most designers are BARELY earning enough to support themselves. The reality is the clothing alone seldom turns a profit and design houses must rely on accessories like purses, shoes, fragrances and cosmetics for their bread and butter.  According to Vogue Business, hosting a show at NYFW can cost anywhere from $125,000 to upwards of $300,000 with costs skyrocketing if you choose a unique venue.

That number does not include the production of runway samples.  Designers say showing at NYFW is critical for visibility but appraising a show’s return on investment is difficult.  Christian Sirano told Vogue Business, “I think when our investors go through the numbers, it’s really hard for them to see an actual return. There are ways to tell if a collection is more successful than another, but that doesn’t necessarily have to do with the show.”

Virtual shows may reduce or eliminate many of the costs of production, not only making brands more profitable but allowing smaller independent designers the ability to participate in NYFW.

Image courtesy of Air Charter Service Canada

NYFW’s Carbon Footprint

Hopefully, by the time this goes to print the California wildfires will be out and Hurricane Sally’s destruction will have been cleaned up and everyone in Mississippi and Alabama will have electricity again. Our planet is facing a dire crisis. Global warming has been dramatically changing weather patterns and producing deadly storms that are destroying entire ecosystems. This has been ignored for far too long and humanity is running out of time.

Another thing that cannot be ignored when you attend NYFW, the sheer volume of people who fly from Europe or Asia to attend the shows. According to the New York Times, buyers and retailers will fly nearly 12,000 miles every year to attend showrooms at fashion weeks. Travel to and from during NYFW produced the biggest carbon numbers of the four fashion capitals.  There are private airlines that cater exclusively to providing high-end travel to and from fashion weeks.

In July 2019, Stockholm simply canceled their fashion week due to ecological concerns. The bottom line is NYFW in its previous forms is simply not sustainable. There can be no debate; NYFW needs to change the amount of resources it consumes.

A virtual fashion week could go a long way to eliminating a tremendous amount of carbon emissions generated by air travel.

Fashion never stops evolving, and neither does the fashion industry. Hopefully, with guidance from skilled leadership and a little bit of luck, NYFW with grow into a new incarnation that perhaps could be a bit kinder to everyone involved. But for now, as we the deadly rollercoaster that is 2020 continues, we will have to wait and see. 

—Cameron Grey Rose





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