Christina Binkley; WSJ January 23, 2013
New York Fashion Week has long been perceived as a pinnacle of success for an American designer. Yet when fashion week opens Feb. 7, a number of labels that showed there in the past will be sitting it out.
Joy Cioci will instead present her collection in mid-March after editors and buyers return from Paris Fashion Week, the last event in the monthlong round of collections. The New York calendar “was so crowded, and it’s so hectic for buyers and the editors, she says of the four seasons she showed at the fashion-week tents. “I just felt that I wasn’t getting the investment return.”
Yoana Baraschi, whose 10-year-old label showed at fashion week for many seasons, will also move to mid-March. Her presentation, she says, will be more intimate, and she will be able to hire high-caliber talent that is usually booked during fashion week.
“Everybody wants the same models and the same stylists. It’s just spinning out of control,” Ms. Baraschi says of the official week. “No one can see as many shows as there are now.”
New York’s calendar has become noticeably more crowded as labels squeeze in with entrepreneurial zeal. While fashion shows used to be limited to high-style labels, midprice contemporary labels and menswear brands are now muscling into New York. One reason: No official body controls the calendar, unlike in Milan and Paris, where just a few dozen labels are invited to show in each fashion week. So far, 283 labels have registered to present collections at New York Fashion Week, up from 204 in Feb. 2007, according to the Fashion Calendar, a company that tracks fashion events.
While the official calendar runs Thursday to Thursday from Feb. 7-14, designers actually will start showing as early as Monday, Feb. 4, turning the “week” into 11 days.
There are hourly collisions on the busiest days. At 4 p.m. Monday, four labels are showing in various locations around New York. At 8 p.m. Sunday, editors must choose between seeing Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Rucci. And after seeing 10 or more collections a day, most viewers have to look at photos to bring the blur of clothes back into focus.
“I need memory retention. I need a chance to sit and talk to these people,” says designer Daniel Vosovic, who is moving his three-year-old label to a March presentation as well.
Often, it is cheaper to circumvent New York Fashion Week. Mackage designers Elisa Dahan and Eran Elfassy found it less expensive to fly editors to their show at Toronto Fashion Week. They launched Montreal-based Mackage in New York in 1999but started showing in Toronto last year. “I feel like we were little kids trying to accomplish a dream,” Ms. Dahan says of those early shows. But in Toronto, she says, they can hire top models who are contractually forbidden to do their shows in New York because of agreements with more powerful brands.
The cost of a show during New York Fashion Week is generally six figures and can rise to more than $1 million for big brands. If you hire top models, the minimum cost of a show is $350,000, says Ms. Baraschi, who estimates she will save 60% of the cost by moving to March.
Many designers are creating carefully produced videos of their collections. Rather than limiting their audience to the people at the show, they can send the video to stores and editors, use it for advertising and put it on YouTube and style.com. “It has longevity,” Ms. Cioci says.
Designers who forsake New York’s fashion week still plan to keep their showrooms open to take orders from store buyers during the week, just as they have in the past.
The split highlights the increasing separation between store buyers and fashion editors. Shows, with their pomp and drama, are increasingly focused on marketing to magazine editors. As designers try to accommodate the growing number of celebrities and bloggers, stores have been crowded out. While top fashion executives at big department stores such as Saks and Neiman Marcus still get invitations, they aren’t always in the front rows. And smaller store buyers sometimes struggle to obtain invitations at all.
The chaos is a natural part of a fast-changing industry, says Tom Florio, former publisher of Vogue, who recently took over as CEO of Advanstar Fashion group, which runs eight fashion trade shows. Mr. Florio’s new shows, which seek to get higher fashion into the trade-show environment, aim to lure New York Fashion Week regulars. One show called “The Tents” will launch later this month in Las Vegas, inviting trendy menswear labels such as Billy Reid and Michael Bastian to participate. “There are so many ways to communicate fashion today,” says Mr. Florio. “You don’t necessarily have to tell that story on the runway anymore.
None of this diminishes many designers’ aspirations to reach New York fashion week. To launch her new ready-to-wear Rivini line during fashion week, bridal designer Rita Vinieris started looking for open times in October. “The calendar is insanely crowded,” she says. She settled on Feb. 6, a day before official fashion week. She hopes to reach editors who miss her presentation with a video and private appointments.
Nary Manivong, whose label will be showed to editors by appointment in March, says he is sanguine about skipping New York Fashion Week. “For me, fashion week will always be there. I can always come back.”// View Gallery