The New York Fashion Week we know, really started in 1943. Eleanor Lambert, the press director of the New York Dress Institute, organized the shows into a single time frame called Press Week.
This was the first big change.
Although the shows were now in the same time frame, they were scattered all over town. It was hard for the press to see all the shows and it was a kind of free-for-all of rushing across town, crazy schedules, and sometimes shows in venues that weren’t even safe to show in! The legendary incident that finally made it obvious it wasn’t working, was when a ceiling began to collapse at a Marc Jacobs show. Something had to give. Suffering for your art was one thing, but being literally injured for it, is quite another.
In 1993 Stan Herman was President of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) and Fern Mallis was the Executive Director.
Fern pitched the idea of putting all the events in one place. Stan, whose atelier overlooked Bryant Park thought it would be the perfect venue. Together they spent an intense year enlisting sponsors, convincing designers and making it happen. In 1994 they pitched the first tents in Bryant Park and their vision became “7th on Sixth”, or what is now known as Fashion Week.
This was the second big change.
This type of Fashion Week drew more than just the Fashion industry. It drew the press, socialites and celebrities and became one of the most important events in New York.
I remember the shows in Bryant Park and I have to say that was my favorite time. Maybe it is because these were the first shows I had the pleasure of attending, so that colors my opinion, but it felt small and intimate like you were part of something special.
In 2001, “7th on Sixth” was sold to IMG and officially became “New York Fashion Week,” (NYFW).
In 2010 NYFW moved to Lincoln Center, a large venue that had room for a large number of shows. Although it was a beautiful facility, I don’t think the fashion community ever really felt like it was home.
This was the 3rd big change.
In 2015, NYFW left Lincoln Center.
The new home of Fashion Week was announced, but it wasn’t a single location. There would be two main venues, one in midtown and the other in West Soho with shows in other places around the city as well.
This was the 4th big change.
After more than 20 years, NYFW has gone back to being everywhere. It has, in some ways, come full circle. There will eventually be a central location in Hudson Yards, when it is built, but it will still not all be in one place.
Along with changing locations, there are a lot of other changes in Fashion Week. With the rise of the Internet, social media, blogging and live streaming, we live in a world of instant access. Everyone sees the fashions immediately. Fashion Week was originally created to show fashion to the industry that would be sold and covered by the press 6 months after the runway show. How does it affect that model if everyone is seeing it now? What will Fashion Week become? There is a feeling in the air that it is reinventing itself. It feels like being on a sled at the crest of the hill just before it plunges to a wild ride. And right now, everyone is just holding on.
This is the 5th big change and it could be the biggest yet.
I caught up with Fern Mallis at Pier 59 where a number of shows were being held and had a chance to ask her her thoughts on Fashion Week.