New York Fashion Week Has Become What it Hates

circus, circus.

circus, circus.

This week will mark the end of the most grumbled about New York Fashion Week ever. Everyone from disgruntled and “depressed” designers (cc: Joseph Altuzarra), to less-than enthused editors (“who needs more fashion and is gagging for yet another show?” lambasted Suzy Menkes) being asked to part the multi-hued sea of bloggers, photographers, and hoi polloi, are wondering what gives. Most acknowledge the need for change. Diane von Furstenberg recently mentioned the prospect of showing digitally in coming years. Oscar de la Renta, looking to travel back to Fashion Week’s more serious-less-circus roots decided to limit his guest list to those with a real reason to be there. Some have even taken to the courts to enforce change. A lawsuit, which accuses NYC and Lincoln Center of limiting public access to Damrosch Park, has been filed demanding the agreement between the Parks Department and Lincoln Center be terminated.

Everyone is peeved, tired, blistered, suing and sewing mad. So what of it?

New York has dominated the Fashion Week conversation for almost 70 years now, and most have insinuated (if not outright said) that Los Angeles is only ever playing at fashion, the masquerading bleach-blonde stepchild not invited to converse on the grownup runway. A recent piece in T Magazine, On the Verge: Los Angeles, Where the Wild Things Are, highlighted just this. “Fashion is not an altogether natural fit for Los Angeles,” claimed the author (who amongst some truisms, also displayed a penchant for stale stereotypes– “so what if Los Angeles is still better known for implants than outerwear?”). The position isn’t entirely wrong. Los Angeles does for example place more stock in comfort than cut, but contrary to previously held thought, that no longer makes New York the de facto “natural fit.”  If this past Fashion Week is any indication, it proved that the more people (read again: bloggers, street style photographers, and the masses) they let in, the more the tailor had to let out, and Emperor NYFW may soon be naked.

Now, New York could never lose Fashion Week, it’s too much a cultural emblem, and much too lucrative for the city, but many are wondering if it has lost its relevance by virtue of becoming too mainstream, too pop, too reality televisionish.

Mainstream. Pop. Reality TV. Ironically these words are often associated with poor harangued Los Angeles.

If we were so bold to posit, we’d say New York Fashion Week has become what it hates: Los Angeles. Hoisted by their own petard.

Is there any real difference between dressing for attention, fame, and the paparazzi, and dressing for attention, fame, and street style photographers? You can’t arbitrate culture and receive freebies on the side. Homogenized individuality isn’t possible. If we were so bold to posit, we’d say New York Fashion Week has become what it hates: Los Angeles. Hoisted by their own petard.

Perhaps in a meta-aware move, certain designers took to the NYFW Spring 2014 runways and boldly declared their love for Los Angeles and California as a whole.

Band of Outsiders— This is an LA-based line, from a former Hollywood agent nonetheless, so it makes sense that designer Scott Sternberg’s casual cool pieces were informed by a “LA state of mind,” and Sternberg’s Griffith Park hikes with Vogue‘s Lisa Love. Band of Outsiders featured sporty overlays that one might wear from LAX to the Huntington Gardens. The set piece on the runway featured a view of the Hollywood sign from behind, and lights of LA below, glittering like a love note (or at least a love text) to the city.

J.Crew— No surprise that the collection from Tom Mora had a distinctly California-beachy feel. And while there was no direct reference to the City of Angels, it was “the California coast, where it feels like summer all the time with casual fabrics like neoprene and bold floral prints,” that was part of the inspiration for the collection.

Rodarte— The Mulleavy sisters live in Los Angeles, and were inspired by “the wild L.A. girl.” White linen blazers, long fringe skirts, scorpions, leopard (some zebra too), and clear nods to mainstream 80’s and 90’s punk and metal culture ruled the runway. Seedy streets and strip clubs met modernity keyed in on a distinctive LA flare.

Peter Som— Without making an obvious reference to LA, Som said his inspiration was, “Downtown surfer girl.” “I’m a beach bum at heart,” said Som via the LA Times, “and I wanted to incorporate that ease into a woman’s wardrobe.” We can see these pieces floating around LA’s burgeoning (or already burgeoned?) Downtown Arts District come spring.

Tommy Hilfiger— “It’s Melrose to Malibu,” said Tommy in the show notes. “The West Coast represents a golden era of surf, sport, and optimism.” Included in this GE: scuba details, skate culture, and vintage bowling shirts. Amongst the boardwalk-framed beachscape, and Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Californication,” Hilfiger even threw in leather neoprene-bonded scuba dresses.

Is LA on the verge? It was Plato after all (yes, father of philosophy, democracy, and idealism) who said: “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” These designers grew tired of the conversation, and decided they wanted to play. Now seems the ripest, most natural time for Los Angeles to swoop in and make a Fashion Week move.

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