The twice-yearly extravaganza that brings hordes of designers, celebrities, editors, photographers, buyers, socialites and hangers-on to New York is more about making media buzz than clothes, say those in the know.
Designers are hungry to become the topic of media chatter about what’s new and hot, said Irma Zandl, head of the Zandl Group that researches trends.
“It’s about spectacle and very little about clothes because many of them are unwearable anyway, especially from the younger or start-up designers.”
Creating buzz is not easy, with each designer competing for the spotlight with hundreds of others showing their new looks around the city until Friday.
Some invite celebrities, with mixed results.
Robert Redford’s out-of-character appearance at the Kenneth Cole show gave the designer plenty of ink in the papers, while singer Beyonce’s stroll through the GF Ferre show caused a brawl by photographers jostling models to get the shot.
Some designers use sex to attract attention, like Jeremy Scott who staged a show with mostly nude models and suggestive designs.
Vogue Editor Anna Wintour’s presence gives weight to a show that money can’t buy, down to editorial assistants and interns who wait on long lines to stand in the back rows.
Fashion week barely about clothes
Sometimes, designers’ efforts to make their shows seem select backfire.
Promoters of British designer Luella Bartley whispered that her show’s location on Sunday was “a top secret” divulged to only a favored few – and scores of seats remained empty.
Trying the mysterious approach, designer John Bartlett once staged a show that plunged into pitch darkness every couple of minutes for effect.
“It’s the only time a collection is ever presented the way they want to present it and after that, it’s in the hands of everyone else,” fashion publicist Deborah Hughes said.
Unknowns create their own buzz, sometimes simply by being unknown. Designer Jennifer Nicholson, not widely known outside of California, won attention this week in large part because her father is actor Jack Nicholson.
And the clothes
But, said trend analyst Tom Julian, don’t forget the clothes.
After a designer spends up to $250,000 on a show, all the secrecy and superstars in the world won’t save a bad batch of togs.
“Some people definitely wasted the money,” Julian said, refusing to name names, “and as a result may not be back.”