History of New York Fashion Week and the Upcoming Changes

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Jason Wu Spring 2014 collection. Picture: http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/people/2013/09/06/jason-wu-sexy-fashion-week-collection/2777507/

For my consumer behavior class, we had to write about a ritual that has evolved over the years. So clearly I chose the evolution of New York Fashion Week. On top of the history, I came across some changes that the Council of Fashion Designers of America has been discussing.

The modern concept of fashion was originally invented in France in the 1700’s. This was the era under the ruling of King Louis XIV, who ruled from 1643 until his death in 1715. The modern concept of fashion is described as the reinvention and changing of apparel style. This concept led to the first “haute couture” or high fashion house in Paris in 1858 named, House of Worth. The top designers of the time would hold “fashion parades” in store for their most prized clients. The models would lineup to show off the pieces the designer produced.

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First American fashion show in 1903 by the Ehrich brothers.  Picture: http://newyorkfashionweeklive.com/the-long-and-winding-history-of-fashion-week

Flash forward to 1903, it was speculated that the first American fashion show was held by the specialty store Ehrich Brothers. This led to the acceptance and mainstream fashion shows in the 1920s. The shows in the 1920s were all separate and were held at either hotels or department stores.

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Eleanor Lambert creator of “Press Week.” Picture: http://newyorkfashionweeklive.com/history-of-new-york-fashion-week

This pattern of fashion shows remained the same until 1943. The super fashion publicist, Eleanor Lambert stepped into the picture. Lambert organized a week to have all of the collections be presented at once. She called it, “Press Week” or “Fashion Press Week.” All of this history is according to an article by NewYorkFashionWeekLive.com.

According to another article by NewYorkFashionWeekLive.com the shows were presented in various lofts and studios across New York City. It was difficult for editors and the press to get from show to show. Some of the venues selected were also unfit. During one of the Marc Jacobs shows a piece of the ceiling fell and hit some of the attendees. This is when a more uniform show really began to be put in the works.

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Bryant Park tents for NYFW. Picture: http://www.capital-style.com/content/roundup-story/2012/09/fashion-fashion-week.html?page=all

The shows were scheduled throughout the week, but were not in the same locations. In 1993 is when Fern Mallis, Executive Director of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, stepped in. At this time the shows were called “7th on sixth” because of the management company that supported the shows. The shows were now all located in Bryant Park in large tents that attracted much attention according to racked.com.

In 2001, the shows were sold to IMG. Then in 2004 Olympus became the title sponsor and named the shows Olympus Fashion Week. Following Olympus, Mercedes-Benz became the title sponsor in 2007 for, “Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week.” Now the IMG shows are known as “New York Fashion Week.” This only includes one third of the shows in NYFW produced by IMG with other independent producers throughout the week according to NewYorkFashionWeekLive.com.

By 2010, the tents could not accommodate the size of the event. The 2010 shows would be shown at the Lincoln Center in New York City. After four successful years at the Lincoln Center, a lawsuit about an invasion in a nearby park drove NYFW out of the venue according to racked.com.

The shows were once again scattered across New York City for the Fall 2015 shows. Now the shows have really seemed to switch their focus. According to ibtimes.com they originally were for major buyers and editors, but now the event has shifted towards a more consumer driven experience. The shows now live stream online so that there is more access to the consumer. Fashion insiders are not very happy about this and argue whether it has shifted from a trade show to a marketing tool according to racked.com.

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Kate Bosworth along with fashion editors at the Spring 2013 shows. Picture: http://www.fashionmagazine.com/tag/shala-monroque/

NYFW has created ritualistic behaviors for consumers. For the selective individuals invited to the event from all over the world and the consumers who are at home watching live stream. The events have roughly 232,000 attendants in total. It is estimated that the economic impact in total to NYC is $900 million and visitor spending about $547 million. This impact exceeds that of the New York Marathon ($340 million), the 2014 Super bowl ($500 million), and the entire U.S. open ($700 million) according to the cfda.com.

The attendants are spending money to see these shows. The shows are marketed and live streamed and are an important part of the fashion industry. Because of the events exclusivity, consumers are dying to get in. For this specific event consumers are ranging from the editors, bloggers, buyers, press, and important clientele that are being invited. To be invited an individual must be in contact with the public relations teams or already have previous relationships with the designer according to heartifb.com. For consumers in attendance there is also the factor of purchasing outfits for fashion week. Some consumers in attendance see it as an opportunity to be a street style star and will spend money on new wardrobes for the week.

The consumers are all brought to New York City to see the shows, but New York is a glamorous trip for most consumers. They want to eat at the finest restaurants, shop at extravagant places like Bergdorf’s, and attend the fashionable after parties. The consumer is thrusted into a week of extravagance and feels the need to spend extravagantly as well.

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The Vogue Runway Retreat at NYFW. Picture: http://www.fashionablypetite.com/2014/03/vogue-runway-retreat-at-new-york_2.html

According to racked.com the week has pulled in sponsors that are not even related to fashion. The event has sponsors handing out and marketing ice cream samples, electronics, and even plumbing. Kohler had set up high end bathroom facilities outside the show in the Vogue Runway Retreat to target the consumer attendees. The retreat is used to refuel attendees and refresh them with sample product. Many products such as Vera Bradley are even displayed in the retreat according to marielmendoza.com. The shows have become a way for marketers to reach consumers.

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Attendees dance at the Marc Jacobs after party of the the Spring 2016 collection. Picture:http://fashionista.com/2015/09/marc-jacobs-gloss-party-nyfw#&gid=ci01d85d82300099de&pid=cms_1516jpg

I believe this ritual like many have become a marketing ploy. The exclusivity of the event has consumers wanting more. The entire week creates such an economic impact just as many holidays do. The evolution of New York Fashion Week shows how a simplistic ritual such as a designer presenting their clothes to a client can become somewhat of a circus. There are so many elements that go into the shows from photographers to public relation coordinators to gift bags to after parties to live entertainment to extravagant venues and stage setups. The list goes on and on.

New York Fashion Week has become more and more about the consumers and the glamour. The extravagance of the individual shows are geared towards the media and the public attention, rather than the original purpose of selling merchandise.

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The CFDA members. Picture: http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2007/07/cfda_welcomes_new_members_prep.html#

In recent news, a new article by racked.com discusses the realization of change for New York Fashion Week. The article expresses how social media has really changed the game. The instant fashion that is broadcasted from the shows is a common occurrence. The CFDA realizes NYFW has become more consumer driven and they want to embrace it. There is talk of showing the fall shows actually in fall and the spring shows actually in spring. This will appeal to the consumers who are ready to purchase the trends in that particular season.

Whatever happens, it truly is a pivotal point in the fashion world. I’m sure the CFDA will find the perfect strategy to bring even more success to NYFW.

 

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