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Well, That Was a Weird NYFW: Empty Seats, Quiet Social

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Wintour handles winter. Photo by Driely S.
Wintour handles winter. Photo by Driely S.

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Once again, that's a wrap on New York Fashion Week. Going into the season's flurry of shows and events, all signs pointed to things being different this time around: Alexander Wang announced plans to show in Brooklyn, there was an official NYFW shuttle lined up, organizers added the Hub at Hudson venue to the mix, big name designers were fleeing Lincoln Center, and Milk Studios' schedule got even more packed.

Additionally, the week has been trending more insider, a direct reaction to what Suzy Menkes dubbed The Circus of Fashion last February. IMG reported that guest lists were cut by about 20%, so it shouldn't be too much of a shock that the week was quiet on social media, covered less in traditional media, and generally seemed to have fewer attendees.

Media Coverage

Social media was quieter this season, with less obsessive tweeting and on-the-spot Instagramming. Cosmopolitan.com editor Amy Odell told Racked by e-mail, "The social media frenzy seems to be less intense. Now that sites like Now Fashion are posting shows live as they happen, there's no need for anyone to Vine or TwitPic a first look at a show. It feels like people are less obsessed with covering the shows that way."

Lucky Market Editor Laurel Pantin explains, "I personally am on kind of Fashion Week overload, and I just don't want to see it on my social media feeds so much, which made me want to post about it less. I'm also of the feeling that if you don't get a really beautiful shot, you shouldn't post anything. Enough blurry smears on Instagram!"

It's not like traditional media made up for the lack of social coverage. Fewer outlets posted reviews of the shows with actual commentary—most simply published a gallery of the looks, minus interpretation. The reviews that did surface did so at a snail's pace.

And brands didn't seem to mind. Despite the onslaught of invitations and the persistent follow up for confirmation of attendance, once the collection flew down the runway, there were noticeably fewer requests for coverage.

Racked photographer Driely Schwartz noted that in general, the "stars" of street style complained about being photographed and went to lengths to be avoided by photographers. "In a way [avoiding photographers] just perpetuates the chase. When we ask [for their photo] and they stop, we get the shots and let them go. I have even overheard [name redacted] say things like, 'If you want my photo you have to walk with me," or, 'If you can catch me, you can take the photo.'" She does report that Eva Chen is a delight to shoot, making sure to like and comment on every photo tagged of her on Instagram. Giovanna Bataglia and Anna Dello Russo still have fun with the photographers, the former even telling the photogs that she dresses just for them.

Schwartz noticed that other photographers in the street style pit complained more than any season prior (surely the weather didn't help). "All photographers find it amazing how every publication has written articles about the 'streeetstyle circus' yet we are all there shooting and every publication says this is their most popular feature during the coverage. Basically it's like reality TV—everyone knows it's fake and made up for the cameras, but everyone watches either for guilty pleasure or just to bash the photos."

Shows In General

The fall 2014 collection schedule can't be discussed without acknowledging the comedically horrific weather. New York got a collective foot of snow over the course of the week, which arrived in a series of blizzards. There were definitely some days where you weren't going anywhere if you didn't have a car service on call. Racked LA editor Natalie Alcala said, "The weather was a huge factor, and I'm not just saying that because anything below 60 gives me a panic attack. I know a lot of bloggers who opted to stay in and watch shows via Instagram after peeking outside their hotel windows."

Is that the reason why there were so many empty seats at the shows? In previous seasons, any holes in the audience—not that there were many—would be filled by those in the standing section, but where was the standing section? Between the weather and the tighter invite list, those less-privileged invitees were nowhere to be found.

As expected, each season brings with it more shows and presentations that are designed specifically for Instagram. Winners in that category this time around included Cynthia Rowley's aerialists, Telfar's New Museum takeover, Dannijo's ballet performance, Alice + Olivia's McKittrick Hotel presentation, and of course Alexander Wang's heat-sensitive spinning encore.


Dannijo's "boxerina" performance.

One thing missing from the shows? Celebrities. There were notably fewer big celebrity moments across the board, the front rows populated with "fashion celebrities" (that'd be your Chelsea Leylands, your Leandra Medines) rather than A-listers or even reality stars.

Lincoln Center

Lincoln Center serves as the official center point to New York Fashion Week. This season, they tightened up security, requesting that show-goers print their invites or have barcodes on their phones out upon arriving. (In previous seasons you could just mutter the name of the show you were going to see and be admitted to the freebie-stocked lobby—crasher's paradise).

The tightened security lead to two noticeable changes. First, there were fewer personal style bloggers parading outside of the venue. Between the weather and the lack of access, these peacocks may have decided a high-profile street style picture wasn't worth the sacrifice of freezing fingers (or bared abdomen, as the crop top was out en force this week, despite the temps). This naturally lead to point number two, which is that inside the venue there were fewer people hanging out. The atmosphere was much calmer inside, and people seemed to be jumping on their laptops to do work, instead of strutting around. It might have also helped that there appeared to be no food freebies this year.


The mellow scene at Lincoln Center.

Surprisingly, a number of shows at Lincoln Center had guests waiting in lines outside of the The Pavilion, The Salon, and the other show spaces within the center. A number of editors reported waiting for 20, 30, even 40 minutes past start time just to get in to the show space.

Offsite Shows

People were less than thrilled with the shuttle buses and with the Hub at Hudson. One editor, wishing to remain anonymous, wrote, "I took the official shuttle between an offsite show and the tents once. It took an hour to get from the West Village to LC. We all missed the show—it was pointless." Of the Hub, she adds, "Hudson Hotel's basement was awful. People I didn't know were talking about it to me on two separate occasions saying they felt like they'd been in a firetrap."

Over at Milk Studios, the increase in shows and presentations came with a side of efficiency. Run like a chic movie theatre, the space employed staffers to direct guests to their shows and help them find exits in a timely matter, continuing to make it a strong competitor to Lincoln Center.

While New York Fashion Week tries to get its footing post-Bryant Park and the industry adapts to the undeniable influence of social media, hopefully we can all look on the bright side, like Pantin did this week: "[This fashion week] seemed a little more relaxed and friendlier, and in general, people didn't take everything so, so seriously. I always think that February fashion week is more low key than in September and maybe it was the extreme cold weather, but this time it seemed to be the most laid back ever. It felt like people were more game to hang and have buddy time, which was great! I kind of had the warm and fuzzies all week."
· All NYFW Fall 2014 coverage [Racked]
· All Hail the Screens: How Instagram Has Shaped NYFW [Racked]
· Five Major Changes to Expect at Fashion Week This Spring [Racked]