Designers Are Trying to Make Fashion Week Great Again

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On Wednesday, Ralph Lauren’s spring/summer 2017 runway show for New York Fashion Week tried something it had never done before in its more than 50 years as a brand. Immediately after the label presented it’s latest runway show in a towering glass tent across the street from its flagship store on Madison Avenue, its new collection featuring Western-style fringe jackets and ponchos was made available for purchase. Although several designers have been experimenting with “see now, buy now” over the past few years, Ralph Lauren is one of the largest American brands to try out the runway-meets-retail tactic, which is one of many trends signifying a desire among designers to reform fashion week.

“Showing clothes, then delivering them six months later… it’s over,” Ralph told Voguebefore the show. “With the internet, social media… you have to change.”

Change is exactly what the doctor ordered. In March, the Council of Fashion Designers of America released results from a study about the current state of New York Fashion Week. It polled 50 industry insiders, including everyone from designers to bloggers. The consensus was that the system of showing clothes in a runway presentation and selling them in stores months later was outdated and ineffective. They also framed the breakneck pace of the fashion cycle as a problem that leaves designers burnt out and doesn’t help gain new customers.

The reality is that fashion week hasn’t evolved that much since it was started back in 1943. The semi-annual series of presentations and runway shows that showcases the latest designer collections to a crowd of international buyers, press, celebrities, and fans hasn’t kept pace with our advances in technology, industry, or globalization.

Kelly Cutrone before a fashion week runway show. Photo by Flickr user Savanna Smiles

Ralph Lauren’s move to offer its collection immediately after the models made their way down the runway, however, is one way to break out of the doldrums of NYFW. Tom Ford, Alexander Wang, and Burberry have also been experimenting with the “see now, buy now” model, and it makes sense.

In an age when the audience snaps pictures and posts them online before 15-minute runway presentations are even over, offering the new clothing to the public immediately after debuting it on the runway cuts down on the risk of fast-fashion knockoffs, and could even help designers capitalize on hype. After all, if you’re going to drop anywhere from $40,000 and up to create a spectacle-like runway production, why wait to make that money back?




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