I know The Tents came out at least a year ago but I don’t care. I thought it was a nice way to usher in NYFW. I just saw it yesterday and, like every time I embark upon a new film, book, blog, or article relating to fashion it’s an emotional moment for me. I’m riveted and excited about learning something new and finding out about new fashion things, but panicked and ashamed that I didn’t already know about it.
All of a sudden I want to wear headsets and hold clipboards and help non-English speaking models order a Diet Pepsi. Those slick plexiglass runways, sexy after-parties, impeccably executed fake eyelashes and impossibly high heels are a big leap from messy studios, lost patterns, late night mania, and what I like to call “sewing in my filth.”
Don’t you worry though. I don’t think I could ever stop my obsessive need to make things.
So, fashion shows. Specifically, the story of the Bryant Park fashion shows in NYC. I’ve worked many fashion shows (see below) but I have to admit that I’ve never been to “the tents.” I won’t ever have the chance, since they’re no longer holding the shows there, but I guess that’s why they made the documentary. Fashion moves on. As Hal Rubenstein said, “You’re not dealing with a very nostalgic crowd.”
A couple of things I learned while watching “The Tents”:
Before the venerated Fern Mallis organized it and got funding in 1993 (which she describes in such an off-handed, “no big deal” way), designers were holding the shows anywhere: in dilapidated buildings all over the city, with little or no organization and tons of chain smoking. It was borderline unprofessional and kind of a joke. Suzy Menkes had some ceiling fall on her head at a show and that was the plaster that broke the fashion reporter’s bouffant. But they got their act together. Stan Herman: “This is big business and it started right here.” Now, according to the New York City Economic Development Corporation, Fashion Week generates an estimated $532 million in direct visitor spending annually, which translates to $865 million in total economic impact.
NYFW has taken a cue from Haute Couture in the production of their shows. Hal Rubenstein also said “You’re selling a dream, not a garment,” which I thought was pretty obvious, and definitely the sentiment of the Haute Couture shows. However, incredulous family members STILL like to scream “WHO WOULD EVER WEAR THAT?” after seeing the outrageous garments and sometimes partially nude people parade down the runway. Sigh. Please stop saying that. You want to know who would wear that? ME. I would. I realize that we’re pretty practical and dedicated to sportswear in the U.S. so there has been some push back against this seduction. We like our dreams attainable.
Needs and expectations are changing too. Looking beyond the immediacy that the internet has brought to fashion, there’s also an overwhelming demand for density and being able to extract and document every last thing from every moment. We want to know the play-by-play of the show, the designer, the model, the venue. Case in point: “Atmosphere Photos.” Soon, there will be a twitter account for the hairbrushes that are used and what they go through. Some say ENOUGH! Peter Som and others reign in the madness by having Digital Fashion Shows, saving time and money and headaches. Some don’t have a show at all. Models just stand solemnly against a pretty backdrop.
Students: volunteer at fashion shows whenever you can. You’ll have some stressful, primal moments and memories but it should read something like this after a few of them:
- Crawling around on the floor removing nail polish off of dirty model feet
- 15 models, 4 dressers and you in an un-airconditioned 10 x 10 foot tent in July
- Hand sewing busted zippers and pantyose (!!!) with no light in said tent
- Overprotective/creepy/baffled boyfriends who linger and gawk
- Lights and music going out mid show (we decided it was an impromptu intermission)
- Taping the bottom of 30 pairs of shoes, removing said tape with goof-off, going home early from exposure to fumes
- Being amazed at how goddamned fast those models can change
Finally, a I have few new favorites from this year! I didn’t think the shows needed any more coverage than they have already so here goes: Tibi, Edun, Louise Goldin, A Détacher, Suno, Chadwick Bell. Such great crisp-white-and-black-boxy-goodness to greet us in a few months!