Fashion Week Guide: Who and What to Know

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

c.2014 New York Times News Service

NEW YORK — As the U.S. Open winds down to its final chaotic days, another late-summer New York spectacle takes its place, one with its own crowds, prized seating spots, celebrity sightings and, of course, winners and losers. Yes, we are talking about New York Fashion Week. The spring/summer season is upon us, with more than 100 shows taking place between now and next Thursday, followed by the same again in London, Milan and Paris until the first week of October. Fashion month has become a cultural phenomenon as globally pervasive as the ginkgo tree. You can’t avoid it, so you may as well embrace it and find out what you should be ready to discuss during cocktail parties and water cooler conversations everywhere. Indubitably, questions of geopolitics and the stagnant European economy are more important, but think of it this way: What happens at fashion week will inform in large part the shape — literally — your identity will take six months from now. So in the interests of self-awareness (and useful banter), following is my crib sheet for what to watch, whom to know and where to focus during the collections.


While you can’t blame fashion’s ever-increasing move into entertainment on Ari Emanuel, the fact that the Hollywood agency William Morris Endeavor, of which Emanuel is chief executuve, bought IMG last December, and along with it ownership of New York, London and Milan fashion weeks (among others), is surely speeding along the transformation. As it happens, Emanuel will be in the New York Fashion Week audience this season (the William Morris folks tell me he is very excited to come to shows) in part because fashion week’s contract with Lincoln Center ends after February, and the powers that be are beginning to think about what shape it will take next. In the meantime Emanuel should not feel too much like a fish out of water, as this season a number of collections are taking an alternative approach to their presentations that may seem more familiar to him than to the fashion pack. (Maybe they are thinking of it as an audition?)

London designer Gareth Pugh, for example, who normally shows in Paris, is coming to New York as part of the Lexus Design Disrupted program and promising “an immersive live performance” to open the week Thursday. It’s unclear exactly what that means (you have to see it to understand, I guess), but according to the designer, it will involve dancers and video.

Then, on Sunday, a mere few days after Pugh’s happening, Opening Ceremony will debut a 30-minute one-act play directed and co-written by Spike Jonze, featuring their costumes — sorry, collection. On Monday, Polo Ralph Lauren will hold an unspecified “fashion event” (note: not show) in Central Park.

Forget the often complained about reality-TV-ification of fashion week courtesy of the street style craze; this takes the concept to a whole different level. It’s like “House of Cards” versus “America’s Got Talent.”

Names to Know

In New York, Michael Herz will debut his first runway collection as artistic director for Diane von Furstenberg. Herz was formerly co-creative director of Bally, and he met von Furstenberg when he curated her 40th anniversary “Journey of a Dress” exhibition in Los Angeles. This is something of a watershed moment for her — post-anniversary, she has an autobiography being released this autumn and a reality TV show on E! — and one of the questions hovering over the brand is what happens next. The show, to be held Sunday, may provide some answers.

Also bowing behind-a-brand in New York this season is Anthony Vaccarello at Versus Versace, the latest hipster name to collaborate with the brand, aka be crowned as a hot-up-and-comer by Donatella Versace. In this, the 30-something Belgian-Italian designer, who shows his namesake line, known for its ‘80s-edged micro-hemlines and slick tailoring, in Paris, follows J.W. Anderson and Christopher Kane, both of whom have now hooked up with luxury conglomerates (LVMH and Kering respectively). Draw your own conclusions.

Meanwhile, industry watchers will also be looking for answers at Proenza Schouler, thanks to recent rumors — thus far unsubstantiated — that LVMH is interested in buying a stake in the brand. If one of the group’s well-known executives were to show up in the audience, it would likely set off a firestorm of renewed speculation.

In London, eyes will be on Christopher Bailey, making his debut as both chief executive and chief creative officer at Burberry. At issue: Whether the added pressures of being a chief executive have had any effect on the aesthetic direction of the brand. In the game of Who’s Wooing Who? Simone Rocha, known to be a designer atop the wish list of many a large group, will likewise have an audience to watch (ooh ... is that a Kering talent spotter I see? An LVMH executive?). And it will be interesting to parse the difference LVMH mentorship and money (300,000 euros) has made for Thomas Tait, recipient of the Group’s first Young Designers Prize.

As for Milan, the new name on the schedule, or behind an old name on the schedule, is Jil Sander’s Rodolfo Paglialunga, who has the unenviable task of reviving a house that became something of a fashion punch line when its founder left last October for the third time (an anonymous team designed the collection for autumn/winter). His only competition for buzzy-generating brand of the week is, perhaps surprisingly, Roberto Cavalli, whose long journey toward selling a minority stake appears to finally be coming to fruition. Will some new investors be in the front row? This is the question.

Which brings us to the last leg of the marathon (phew!) otherwise known as Paris. There the debuts to watch will be Jonathan Anderson at Loewe, where a wholesale revamp and up-tiering of the brand seems to be underway; David Koma at Thierry Mugler; and Julie de Libran at Sonia Rykiel. All three are tasked with breathing new life into floundering names whose to-ing-and-fro-ing under various designers for the last few seasons has been meaningfully eroding their brand equity.

Finally, a farewell of sorts will take place at Hermès, where Christophe Lemaire will reveal his swan song for the brand (he is leaving to concentrate on his own line). He hasn’t been there that long — only four years — and he never really rocked the aesthetic Birkin boat, so audience tears will probably not be forthcoming à la Tom Ford’s departure from Gucci, but they will be watching the faces of family members Axel Dumas (chief executive) and Pierre-Alexis Dumas (artistic director) to try to understand whether Lemaire left on the best, or slightly less salubrious, terms. Fittingly, it is the last big show of not only Paris, but the whole season. From endings come new beginnings.


Trend to Know: Tech

While changes in silhouettes and skirt length will certainly occur thanks to all of the above, some of the loudest style buzz is actually emanating from the fashion/tech arena. This week, Intel is set to unveil its smart bracelet, a bangle studded with semiprecious gems, designed by Opening Ceremony’s Humberto Leon and Carol Lim, while at Vivienne Tam’s show on Sunday, a self-charging iPhone case created in collaboration with wireless specialist Zeusé will appear on the runway. But the Internet is rife with speculation that on Tuesday in Cupertino, California, Apple is finally going to reveal its long-awaited foray into wearable tech, complete with creative mock-ups of what it may look like. The company is not saying anything other than, and I quote the invitation, “wish we could say more.” But if it fulfills expectations, it may well be the biggest fashion event of the season. Even if it is taking place on the opposite coast from Lincoln Center and an ocean away from the European style capitals.

This season, the runway increasingly seems like a state of mind.