THIS New York Fashion Week feels like a big one. Givenchy is bringing a taste of Paris to the Big Apple having officially joined the schedule, and this is huge news; it’s been 10 years since the city’s wunderkind designer Alexander Wanglaunched his eponymous label, and subsequently a new breed of street sportswear cool; a new era begins at DKNY with the appointment of Public School’s Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne as creative directors after Donna Karan, an emblem herself of everything American fashion was, stepped down from both it and her namesake label; and it’s all change when it comes to venues – uptown is out and downtown is in (namely Skylight at Moynihan Station and Skylight Clarkson Square). Not to mention that this round of NYFW shows comes sans menswear collections – NYFW hosted its very own menswear week back in July. So it seems appropriate to turn the spotlight onto the fashion capital that traditionally kicks off the bi-annual proceedings and take a look at where it’s been, what it’s doing and where it’s going. Why is there a buzz about New York and what’s the most exciting thing about being a designer there right now?
“The energy of it,” says Michael Kors, a stalwart of New York style. “You can sit back and watch five completely different women with completely different styles walk down the street. I’ve always said that a New York sidewalk is the ultimate runway.”
Tomoko Ogura, senior fashion director at Barneys agrees. “New York City has always been an eclectic mix of culture and the fashion here mirrors that dynamic spirit. This welcomed acceptance of all styles and personalities is what makes the fashion scene in NYC truly special and inspiring.”
Jason Wu, to whom the city has been especially good, pinpoints its “youthfulness”. “As a designer that started out in NYC, I can say first-hand that NYFW is extremely supportive of up-and-coming young designers.”
And he’s not wrong. Where London is synonymous with new creative talent (and let’s not forget it is incredibly good at that) and fashion-support platforms (and let’s not forget it is incredibly good at that), New York is often described as “commercial”, which can have unfavourable connotations.
“Years ago NYFW was seen as having the more commercial catwalk shows, but the number of new designers showing has increased incredibly and with the changes afoot hopefully there will be more cohesion across all the shows allowing creativity to continue,” agrees Natalie Kingham, buying director at Matchesfashion.com, of the shift.
Kors clarifies that it’s more about creating clothes that can be worn “in real life by real women”, elaborating: “I don’t just make them for the red carpet or for trends or for the ‘show’ aspect of it. I want women to be able to wear everything that walks down our runway in their everyday lives.”
For Matchesfashion.com, young brands like Altuzarra and The Row do especially well and Kingham also flags labels Rachel Comey, Rosie Assoulin, Trademark and Edun as being names of note.
Of course, New York has the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), the equivalent to our British Fashion Council, which runs a host of initiatives and programmes to help new names. It’s not just about the big guns.
“CFDA is dedicated to supporting and shining a light on American fashion. I am really proud to be chairman of the initiatives that have helped to change our industry for the better – like our health initiative and breast cancer awareness, the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund to support young designers and our work to combat piracy and counterfeiting,” says Diane von Furstenberg, whose helping hand is extended beyond designers – she has her own television show, House of DVF, in which she seeks potential DVF-ites to work with her in roles aside from that of design. “New York fashion is all about fashion function and lots of young talent,” she enthuses.