New York Fashion Week Digital Version, Success or Failure?

Image courtesy of vogue.com

New York Fashion Week (NYFW) spring 2021 season was unlike any other NYFW.  The global COVID-19 pandemic, which has transformed the way the entire world does business, drastically changed what was a standard of global fashion weeks, runway shows.  This season fashion industry professionals had to make due with mostly digital presentations. That said; a few top fashion designers—Jason Wu and Christian Siriano—opted for runway shows. Rebecca Minkoff also staged a very well attended fashion week presentation on the rooftop of Spring Studios, what is typically the main venue for NYFW.

While there were conveniences to fashion week being mostly digital, like the ability to comfortably watch all the runway shows from your home computer, the glitz and glamour of NYFW, the fashion industry reunions and seeing colleagues, and the energy and excitement of a runway show were all gone. That said; what is foremost on industry professionals’ minds is how effective was this digital version of NYFW?

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 13: A view of the front row at the runway for Jason Wu – September 2020 during New York Fashion Week: The Shows at Spring Studios Terrace on September 13, 2020 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)

Many buyers in the industry were pleased at the convenience of getting to repeatedly watch the shows, giving them more latitude and more opportunity to identify their favorite looks. There was an almost unanimous consensus that it was nice to watch virtual shows during the appointed time slot , versus memories of runway shows being notoriously late. Showing digitally also allowed for fashion designers to take more creative freedom and be far more budget conscious.

Despite some of the pros of a digital version of NYFW, there were critics of this digital fashion week . Chris Lavish, global digital director of fashionweekonline.com, prior to this NYFW would view collections backstage. While he did attend several of the few in-person shows this season, it admittedly wasn’t the same for him.

Image courtesy of Gia Kuan

“We are no longer able to see the textures and fabrics the designers used,” Lavish said. “You cannot see the craftsmanship in the details through a screen. Showing digitally also didn’t allow for networking or meeting potential new clients in order to expand your business. Many businesses revolve around the show at fashion week, and there’s future business transactions taking place prior to and after the shows.”

Lavish also feels the few designers who showed were at an advantage because they got to bring in more VIPS, buyers, and influencers. “The physical shows definitely had more attention on them,” Lavish said. “Watching something through a screen, like a fashion show, is not the same as watching it in person. It’s similar to when you’re watching sports from the courtside seat and saying it’s the same as watching it on my couch in front of my television. There are just some things that need to happen in person.”

With members of the industry already thinking ahead to what NYFW fall 2021 season will be, Lavish is hoping that if fashion designers/brands take a mostly digital approach that fashion designers/brands incorporate virtual reality.  He’s also hoping there are more off-site shows in presentation style formats that will allow for crowd control while still following ­CDC guidelines.

Jason Wu spring 2021 image courtesy of moorevilletribune.com

There were others in the fashion industry who saw the digital approach to New York Fashion Week as a much-welcomed break from the hustle and bustle of running to 50-plus shows over the course of a week. Michelle Blasha, editor of LeHoarder, said, “I personally loved all the smaller socially distanced presentations and shows. It was definitely more cost effective than the million-dollar shows of the past. It also made it easier to connect with the brands and designers that are typically larger than life. As a blogger, it was definitely less pressure not having to plan out looks for months in advance, and it was great getting to watch from the comfort of my home. However, it also meant missed opportunities and connections … and ultimately lost revenue. I was lucky enough to attend Rebecca Minkoff’s rooftop presentation at Spring Studios this week and walking in felt like coming home.”

The scaled down fashion week also led to many of the big-name anchor designers declining to show or opting to show at later dates outside of the fashion week schedule. Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Michael Kors, Marc Jacobs, Oscar de la Renta, Prabal Gurung, and Tory Burch all opted out of participating in NYFW. However, this left room for smaller independent designers to shine.

While it was questionable as to whether or not a mostly digital version of NYFW could attract major attention from press and buyers, Roopa Patel, senior vice president and fashion director of Saks Fifth Avenue, Linda Fargo, senior vice president of the fashion office and store presentation at Bergdorf Goodman, and Sam Kershaw, buying director of Mr Porter, were some of the heavy hitters that confirmed their “attendance” of NYFW. Some buyers have even confirmed that they’ve successfully completed most of their spring 2021 buys from NYFW, meaning that more independent designers can be expected on sales floors next year.

Image courtesy of Getty Images

That said; some industry members were not happy with this digital version. A stylist who chose to remain anonymous intimated, “The way New York Fashion Week was done makes me feel like they might as well have cancelled it. This simply just isn’t the same. I had to find motivation just to attend the few in-person shows. I’m hoping by February they have at least returned to doing a presentation style format that can be shot for a digital video campaign and allow for a limited number of in-person guests.”

Despite the challenges the fashion industry has faced from coronavirus, it has adapted to its temporary normal. Digital NYFW might not have had the same sparkle and shine that attendees are used to, but there was still a chance for designers to showcase their collections in a creative way. There’s still hope for a return to the NYFW of yesteryear, so onward and upward!!

—Kristopher Fraser

Comments

  1. This article was such a welcome piece… I’ve been looking for someone to analyze the story from a distance looking back. Thank you… however a more in-depth piece would have been so welcomed!!! This just scratched the surface… please dive deeper…

    However, to the sad source at the end that choose to remain anonymous, this is simply a cowards way out. This is FASHION… not international espionage… If you can’t go on the record, then don’t bother speaking.

    This tactic of an anonymous informant was once a strategic move that lent an air of credibility to a story as it was the exception, not the norm, & an anonymous source was doing so out of grave danger of some sort. However, in today’s Trump era period of supposed “fake news” this ploy is so commonly used that it rings as hollow & delegitimizes the point of view being expressed… in fact, it lends credibility to the messenger of the “Fake News” allegations. I honestly don’t care who this person is & that’s not my reason for saying this… I’m simply stating this because using an “anonymous” source in an article about NYFW makes the reporter & publication look hollow & sensationalist. Fashion Reverie is neither of those descriptives…

    There are oodles of sources that would have gone on the record saying such comments. If one source refuses, ask the next in the long line of possible sources. We’re talking about runway shows here… not secret missile silo locations…

    Sorry to vent… in review: Great topic, tell us more, & get real sources.

    My 2 cents…

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