The Changing World of New York Fashion Week
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because the brands that tell you how to be cool and sexy are rejiggering their definitions of both of those words.
By Constance C. R. White
It’s not fall in the fashion world — it’s spring. At least, that’s what show week has us believing.
This year there are the seasonal trends from blue-chip names like Ralph Lauren, Michael Kors, Carolina Herrera and Marc Jacobs, and there’s no shortage of notable emerging talents like Joseph Altuzarra, Cushnie et Ochs, Azede Jean-Pierre and Sophie Theallet. But show week is really about taking the pulse of the future. And oh, what it has in store for us.
1. Instagram: the new billboard?
Everyone’s an editor and we’re all designers.
Visit Lincoln Center, the main venue for shows, and before you can get to the entrance, you’re sure to run into or be run over by a high-style, self-employed blogger taking a selfie or being photographed by a paparazzi-style Japanese photographer.
And what counts as an editor? If you’re a Pinner, Instagrammer, Snapchatter, Viner or just have a smartphone and an opinion on style, you can own the fashion world. And in a nod to the winds of change, the Council of Fashion Designers of America has instituted an Instagrammer Award.
Consumers don’t need to hear from designers in ivory towers issuing edicts to buy, as they did years ago. A friend’s opinion or a stranger’s on social media may count for more.
“Fashion is an emotional purchase,” says former Wall Street Journal reporter Teri Agins, author of Hijacking the Runway (out this fall). “Anything that will get you that billboard and get the consumer to make the purchase is what’s gonna work.”
2. Men: the vainer sex
For the first time in memory, men’s fashion spending is outstripping that of what conventional wisdom would suggest is the vainer sex. We might have seen it coming if we had imagined such a thing possible.
Out of the ’90s came the metrosexual and the man bag (don’t call it a murse). Now there’s man cleavage (or he-vage), sounding the death knell for the Sean Connery/James Bond chest ideal. Oh, and there’s plastic surgery.
But it’s all about being dressy and classy — blame Mad Men and hip-hop’s fast-maturing style. Rap icons like Diddy and Jay Z have grown up, and a younger generation of male trendsetters — Kanye West, Pharrell Williams — favor a dressier look.
If you’re a watcher, keep your eyes on Peter Som, Rag & Bone, Carlos Campos and Williams for G-Star. Or just ogle the newly beautiful men on New York City sidewalks.
3. Are the hipsters ruining the fun for everyone?
Normcore — a style carefully curated to make you look like you aren’t trying — is everywhere on hipster young people. And this “no fashion” trend poses a challenge to high-end designers. But if anyone knows how to romance the stone, it’s fashion marketers.
Though the hipsters get the rap for spreading normcore, I’ll cite another source of the guile: rampant athleticism. Sports is America’s pastime. We love to watch more than we like to play, and we like to wear sports clothes more than either. They’re what “normal” people wear. They’re comfortable. They’re approachable. A sweatshirt looks reasonable on a size 2 and a size 22, which helps in a nation where the populace is getting fatter.
And sports’ inspiration continues to pop up on runways; sports brands like Adidas and Nike will even do presentations in a bid to get at the white-hot center of fashion. Gisele Bündchen, wife of Patriots QB Tom Brady, is also getting on board the athletic fashion side — just this week, she signed a contract with Under Armour to appear in ads for its women’s line.
I can’t bemoan too loudly, though. I own two pairs of Lululemon pants that I consider fashionable as errand pants or athleisure wear. And I have never worn either one in a child’s pose.
4. Millennials: not buying it
Millennials are fueling new tech-native brands like Nasty Gal and Brit retailer Asos. But millennials also practice fauxsumerism — the art of looking, enjoying and interacting with merchandise without making a purchase, according to research by Noise/The Intelligence Group, a market research firm. But as they get older — and richer — millennials will be expected to have spent $2.5 trillion total and to represent 75 percent of the work force by 2025, the same research showed.
But the older millennials get, the more they might challenge some of our most fundamental conceptions about retail and money. For instance … if a store isn’t just about buying, can you make money off of it just being a cool place to hang? But then is it still a store?
Fashion, almost by definition, is about seasonal change. But these shifts might demand a more visionary mindset — if not a wholesale willingness to leap into the unknown.