THE STRANGE PARADIGM SHIFT AT NEW YORK FASHION WEEK
At 6pm last week, for one of the final shows of New York Fashion Week, a throng of photographers and a file of eager spectators mobbed a side street in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village. The garage door of 16 Morton Street was then raised to reveal 16 models perching on porch swings.
They were wearing Cynthia Rowley’s perfectly lovely Spring collection, which was sheer, sporty, and exactly on trend. Dream a Little Dream gently drifted from the loudspeakers as fashion week regulars stormed the scene. A perplexed onlooker asked, “Why are people so excited to take pictures of people swinging on swings?”
Because it was New York Fashion Week, of course. The goal of the enterprise is to sell clothes, but more than ever, the events of fashion week found people selling ancillary products - beverages, and cars, and most of all themselves as the influence of influencers reached a fever pitch.
Sure, the runways were filled with looks that extended and amplified the hottest looks of the current season. There were denim (Alice+Olivia), double denim (Tom Ford), and head-totoe denim fantasias (Oscar de la Renta). There were pinks that ranged from pretty (Cinq a Sept) to shocking (Christian Siriano).
But with some of America’s most notable designers (Thom Browne, Rodarte, Rick Owens) instead showing in Paris, and with those who remained also increasingly showing men’s clothing, the emphasis on digital spectacle was more spectacular than ever. It felt like a shift, small but meaningful, in the nature of the event, as if NYFW had moved from the Baroque era ushered in by the ascent of Instagram into a manic Rococo phase. It’s always been a zoo, but now the zookeepers are frantically touting their tie-ins, collaborations, and synergies. It is now, for instance, a place where - allowing exceptions for Nicki Minaj and various Jenner-Kardashians - the reigning celebrity is NBA star Russell Westbrook. Om- nipresent, Westbrook used the week as a platform to launch a coffee table book, Style Drivers, via a Q&A at the 16th Street outpost of Barneys New York. His answers were circumspect enough for any post-game interview. Who was his own personal style icon? “My mom.”
On Sunday night, at the La MaMa Experimental Theater the synergy was at its most restrained. Opening Ceremony presented its Spring line by way of a dance performance created by film director Spike Jonze and starring actors Lakeith Stanfield and Mia Wasikowska.
Further downtown, at Fulton Market, there was a party to celebrate the designers of the streetwear brand Public School and a bottle they’d crafted for Moët & Chandon. The event was like a full-employment plan for semi-pro Instagrammers.
But this was hardly the crazi- est event of the week. That award went to Alexander Wang, who summoned the fashion press for an event dubbed #Wangfest on a dead-end street in Bushwick, Brooklyn, and then asked them to wait for 75 minutes until his models arrived, via party bus, in lackluster sports- wear. The brutality of the reviews still ring: “The collection shown on Saturday night was such a side note to the unwieldy, confusing event, it’s barely worth discussing.” I was outside the Hammerstein Ballroom in Manhattan, navigating a rugby scrum to gain entrance to the Philipp Plein show. Because guests had dressed in a way that matched Plein’s vision of excess, the press of bodies-upon-bodies in the overflow crowd on 34th Street created an interesting texture of metal studs, black leather and blue mohair.
Inside, the hectic scene transferred to a spectacle that went heavy on dance, with solo performances from Dita Von Teese and Teyana Taylor and chorus girls who dressed in boots and bodysuits and evidently learned their choreography at Scores.
At Plein’s after-party (also at Hammerstein, with Nicki Minaj performing), as at Wang’s, Red Bull was the mixer of choice. Call it the official sponsor of the most over-caffeinated fashion week in history.
A model in Cinq à Sept Denim collection by Oscar de la Renta A model walks in a Vivienne Tam collection Calvin Klein’s sheer collection A model displays Libertine’s sheer collection
Inside the Philipp Plein show at the 2017 New York Fashion Week