Yesterday, sitting on the benches beside the Alberta Ferretti catwalk as one does, I got to chatting to my neighbour about London Fashion Week. “It was great,” he said, “But it was all the same people you have already heard of. I hope it’s not losing its edge for new talent as it gets more established.” Well, according to the new talent, he should not fear.
Calling Bill de Blasio: Just in time for fashion week, New York has been crowned “Top Global Fashion Capital” in Digital Language Monitor’s 10th annual survey of most-discussed fashion cities. For a fashion world nervous that post-Bloomberg the City Hall regime might not be quite as friendly to the industry (smacking, as it does, of elitism), this is good news. After all, New York edged out Paris by a mere .005%, while the 2012 and 2011 winner London fell to third place. And there are more surprises!
So marketing megalith IMG has just been sold to private equity firm Silver Lake Partners and talent agency William Morris Endeavor for more than $2.3 billion – which means, as those of us who follow these sorts of thing know, that assorted fashion weeks from New York to London, Berlin, Tokyo, Moscow, Miami, Toronto and Sydney have just also been sold, IMG owning the rights to those events (among others). Which has interesting implications for the debate currently raging in fashion about the purpose of fashion weeks itself: namely, are they for the trade (for buying and selling clothes) or, as fashion becomes more and more a part of pop culture and a driver of social media, are they entertainment for the public and marketing for the brands?
Given the diversity debate that raged during New York Fashion Week – and which is making its way over the ocean to London, where the shows began today — thanks to a letter Bethann Hardison sent to the fashion councils of the four fashion week cities pointing out, in no uncertain terms, the extreme uniformity of the runway, I thought it might be interesting to keep a scorecard of sorts during NYFW to see if all the talk had any effect. Here’s what I found.
And you thought the recent municipal jockeying to nab a glamourous, potentially global-identity-changing event ended when the IOC announced Tokyo had won the bid to host the 2020 Olympics. Hah! Apparently, London is still in campaign mode, even post-its successful Olympic Games, and now Mayor Boris Johnson has turned his eyes toward fashion.
As fashion weeks proliferate around the world (I blame IMG, which alone owns 14 different fashion weeks from Milan to Mumbai), and it gets harder and harder to get excited about them or even remember why we should care, I have been struck by the way, of all the fashion weeks not on the original NY-London-Milan-Paris calendar, Copenhagen Fashion Week alone has both understood and attempted to solve the problem. They’ve made a big bet on an identity differentiator that – and this is key – actually doesn’t have anything to do with design. Think that’s ridiculous? it’s actually very clever.
Oooh, the trash talk out of Milan. Having finally woken up to the fact that London Fashion Week is getting buzzier, and that such a development could be a threat to Milan, its collections, and the related economic windfall that comes to a city during showtime, Milanese designers are joining forces to defend their territory – but the infighting has already begun. The gossip and name-calling is fun to watch, but behind it is a real issue currently afflicting every fashion week: the tension between national industry interest and a brand’s self-interest.
Three years ago in the midst of the financial crash, Sarah Mower, the British Fashion Council’s ambassador for emerging talent and a writer (she was awarded an MBE for it), in conjunction with the British Fashion Council, set up what she called “the London Showrooms”. A temporary salon during Paris Fashion Week for young UK designers not yet ready to pay for their own showrooms around the world, or organise them, but eager to reach those among the international fashion body who might not have made it to the London shows because of budget or time.
It was a big success, and since then she has introduced such showrooms in Los Angeles, New York and Hong Kong, as well as another in Paris for menswear, and potentially one in Tokyo this year.
In a few hours (4pm UK time) Burberry will take to the runway at London Fashion Week (that’s chief creative officer Christopher Bailey with Samantha Cameron at the opening reception for LFW, left), and viewers will take to their smart phones not just to watch the show, which is being streamed on pretty much every part of social media you can imagine, but to order coats and bags… with their names on them! They will arrive on their doorstep in nine weeks, which is much earlier than in stores. Not only that: they will also be able to access video of their product being made, just for them. The knees go weak.
Ok, so that sarcasm was maybe a bit uncalled for. On one level I think offering videos of the customised product is a very smart thing. It pulls customers into the process, which provides an increased sense of ownership and also underscores the hand-made side of things, partly justifying the price and categorisation of Burberry as a luxury brand. But on another, this feels a little smoke and mirrors to me.
Yes, it’s more Marc Jacobs news! The Jacobs show, aka the most-anticipated show of NY Fashion week due to the designer’s ability to turn on a dime season after season, has just emailed all of us fashion types to announce they are moving the show from Monday, the usual slot, to Thursday at 8pm due to “weather and production problems”.
Here are some excerpts: