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Why Fashion Week Is Important, And How It Could Be Better

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Photo by Driely S.
Photo by Driely S.

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This New York Fashion Week went off with the usual highs, lows and PR drama, but it started on an unhappy tone. Fern Mallis, the former doyenne of Fashion Week at Bryant Park, along with other fashion world insiders, took to the New York Times the day before shows to rain on the NYFW parade before it had even begun. Over grumbles about the media circus, packed schedule and commercialization of the event, people are asking: What is the true value of New York Fashion Week?

Photo by Driely S.

"[NYFW] is a nice celebration of the industry and all of the art that goes into it, the creative minds and the talented craftsmen," Whitney Pozgay, the designer behind contemporary line WHIT, told Racked. "Fashion week really brings that to light, whereas when you take [collections] to market, it really is so commerce driven that I think that gets a little forgotten. [...] The challenge is just when there's so many brands having a voice that it's kind of like white noise across the board."

Pozgay sought to differentiate herself this season by putting on a breakfast instead of a show. "The calendar is so insanely packed, and we did such a big presentation last season, that we thought it'd be nice to do it super early and serve breakfast and get one-on-one interaction with everybody," she said. Fellow indie designer Rachel Comey also went small rather than big, presenting her collection while simultaneously hosting an intimate dinner party.

The Whit presentation. Image via DailyCandy.

These types of moves, in the face of a continuously growing calendar, don't surprise seasoned fashion editors. "In terms of production and doing things, New York is sometimes best at figuring out how to do it and do it quickly and do it efficiently," said Alexis Bryan Morgan, Lucky's executive fashion director. "In Europe, sometimes you go to these shows [...] and you get lost, you can't find your seat, and nobody is there to help you. Or, in some situations, you don't even get to really see the clothes. In New York, you know it's not going to be that complicated. You're going to get your job done."

Even so, the number of brands showing at NYFW continues to climb with each new season. And it doesn't help that less than one third of the 350 brands on the New York calendar actually showed at Lincoln Center this time around. "People don't show in Lincoln Center because they want something that's unique and Lincoln Center maybe feels less unique than finding a venue that other people aren't using," said Amy Odell, the newly-appointed editor of and veteran of The Cut and Buzzfeed Fashion. "But I think that logistically, people would appreciate [...] using a centralized location. I would love that."

Photo by Driely S.

It's a sentiment that many attendees can agree upon. "In a perfect NYFW world, all the show venues would be closer together and I would be able to attend more shows," said fashion stylist Orlee Winer. "I think the fashion industry could take a page from the art world and implement shuttle buses at all the major venues as they do for major art fairs like Frieze and The Armory."

The challenge lies in making communal show spaces attractive to fashion houses, who are particularly concerned with retaining their unique identities. "The tents are amazing and that's great, but not all brands can participate in that and I think it's nice [to have] alternative spaces where people can go and see more than one show in a short time span," said Pozgay. "It would be interesting if more people kind of took on that challenge and thought of alternative ways to give a forum to young brands."—Erika Graham
· Marc Jacobs Is Officially Fashion's Grim Reaper [Racked]
· Critics React To J.Crew's Spring 2014: "It's Just Right" [Racked]
· All NYFW Spring 2014 Coverage [Racked]