Is New York Fashion Week Still Relevant Anymore?

Is New York fashion week still relevant anymore? It’s a question that has been on the minds of many fashion industry folks this past NYFW. Vogue Business published a story questioning if New York should cancel fashion week altogether while Quartz shared its own, wondering if the event still has a purpose at all. It seems designers too are unsure about it.

This season many designers dropped out of the CFDA calendar — Tom Ford moved his show to Los Angeles, while brands including Ralph Lauren, Mara Hoffman, Batsheva, Tanya Taylor, and others have forgone a fashion show completely. And yet Rodarte returned to the schedule after a hiatus while other brands like Coach, Eckhaus Latta, and Collina Strada turned their shows into concerts. Susan Alexandra even made hers into an actual musical. It’s hard to keep up with who’s doing what anymore while the euphoria around fashion week has become overshadowed by the growing crescendo of voices talking about climate change.

It’s been 27 years since NYFW first started, and things are shifting. This past week, I couldn’t help but feel exhausted despite cherry-picking the shows I attended and all my best efforts to practise serious self-care. Last season I worked over 100 hours and this season I probably clocked in a third of that. But by day three, I was straight up burnt out. I couldn’t leave my bed or find the strength to eat anything besides cereal. The pace felt like a marathon with the finish line practically unreachable. The creative spark that had ignited earlier in the week (yay, fashion!) had dulled, and I found myself feeling empty (seriously, fuck fashion!). New York Fashion Week, in all its glory, had made me hate fashion and myself, hurling me into a state of existential dread. What’s the point of all this?

When I shared this sentiment on social media, I received many messages from others declaring that they felt similarly. It was then that I realised that perhaps the culture around fashion is changing because we’ve exhausted it and ourselves to the extreme. While fashion shows can be beautiful and fruitful for editors, buyers, and influencers alike this system is just no longer sustainable in every sense of the word, and it’s only a matter of time before it combusts completely.

So maybe it’s not time we abandon it altogether, but instead, perhaps it’s time we redefine the point and process of it. How? By making sustainability a priority with an actionable plan that holds the industry accountable, like the scheme Copenhagen Fashion Week recently announced. It’s time we consider the mental and physical toll the event has on our environment AND our bodies. But sustainability is only possible with the necessary resources and collaboration.

With this in mind, brands could follow the lead of Vaquera, CDLM/Creatures of The Wind, and Section 8 who did a three-way show together last season. Or take a note from Phillip Lim and Tibi who, instead of a runway show or presentation, hosted events at their brick-and-mortars, open to anyone. The possibilities are endless, and while I don’t have all the solutions, I do know it’s time for a change, and hopefully, after this week, more people see that, too.

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