New York Fashion Week Shakeup: What Designers Are Doing Differently

6:00 PM 9/7/2016

by Stephanie Chan and Sam Reed

A comprehensive guide to how designers are shaking up the fashion system, and what they are doing instead of traditional runway shows.

Tommy Hilfiger - Backstage -Getty - H - 2016
Antonello Trio/Getty Images

New York Fashion Week is less than a week away and already it's shaping up to be a season unlike any other. 

With retail sales in the doldrums, and the immediacy of social media challenging the exclusivity of shows, and the ability of magazines and designers to dictate trends six months ahead, the industry is trying new things to reinvent, which is changing the look and feel of the spring 2017 schedule.

Several labels are in transition, with new designers in place but not ready to show their collections yet (Raf Simons at Calvin Klein, Monse at Oscar de la Renta).

Other designers are trading traditional runway shows for alternative formats, hosting consumer-facing, social media-friendly extravaganzas (such as the carnival set-up for Tommy Hilfiger), for example. Others are choosing more exclusive, intimate presentations (see the appointment-only previews at J. Mendel).  

And a few are going strictly digital (Misha Nonoo's Snapchat-only show, for example).

In addition to venue format changes, industry participation in the "see now, buy now" model is growing. Tom Ford, Rebecca Minkoff, Hilfiger and Nonoo are among those showing fall collections, instead of spring, and making them available for purchase simultaneously at the shows.

Could the efforts to eventize fashion week, and cater more directly to consumers, mean an end to runway shows with star-studded front rows as we know them, as designers shift attention to the people who are actually buying their clothes? Time will tell.

Here, a list of designers and labels approaching the upcoming New York Fashion Week differently.

  • Tom Ford

    Tom Ford is kicking off New York Fashion Week, presenting his fall 2016 womenswear and menswear collections. Not only is it one of the most high-profile shows this season, it's consumer-friendly too — the entire collection will also be immediately shoppable after the presentation. A private dinner with press and industry insiders is taking place after the show.

    The designer-turned-director's New York presentation is a follow-up to his unconventional format for spring 2016, a music video starring Lady Gaga in his sexy designs. It's also a follow-up to the premiere of his second film, Noctural Animals, at the Venice Film Festival. 

  • Tommy Hilfiger

    Like Minkoff, Tommy Hilfiger was an early adopter of the fashion and tech push, and he has made social media and getting imagery into the hands of his fans a priority — so much so that for his February presentation, the designer created an “InstaPit” which gave digital influencers front-row, photo-ready access to the collection.

    Hilfiger's September collection, created in collaboration with Insta-famous supermodel Gigi Hadid (22.2 million followers) will be immediately shoppable after the Sept. 9 show. The brand will also be staging a two-day carnival in addition to a traditional runway show, and it's open to the public.

  • Misha Nonoo

    Misha Nonoo — who's playful relaxed creations have been worn by Gwyneth Paltrow, Emma Watson and Sarah Jessica Parker — is going digital again. For the fall 2016 season, the Bahrain-born, New York-based designer skipped the runway for an "insta-show," presenting her collection via Instagram only. The show received views from over 15.1 million Instagram users, according to a spokesperson for the brand.

    Nonoo is continuing to embrace social media for spring 2017. The designer is partnering with Refinery29 to present her first "live livebook" on the lifestyle website's Snapchat channel on Sept. 7, starting at 10 a.m. Like other Snapchat stories, snaps from the presentation will disappear after 24 hours. The collection will be immediately shoppable on Nonoo's website

  • Rebecca Minkoff

    Rebecca Minkoff has long been a champion of changing things up — whether that means experimenting with fashion and tech or taking on the see-now, buy-now strategy.

    Minkoff was one of the first to show an in-season collection. In February of this year, she re-showed her spring collection — which originally made its debut during fashion week the previous September — to consumers, who were able to purchase pieces immediately.

    This September, she will show her fall collection to a group of 750 attendees (half of which will be consumers) during a runway show staged on the street outside of her New York flagship. The consumer portion of the audience will be a mix of retail rewards members and shoppers invited by influencers who will be walking in the show. Select pieces will be immediately available for purchase, and the full collection will be stocked within 60 days.

    “Customer fatigue and image fatigue sets in when you see something for six months, and you see it everywhere,” the designer told Pret-a-Reporter in April of why she decided to stage a see-now, buy-now presentation. The strategy worked, however, as Minkoff noted that year-over-year sales for the month of February were up 211 percent. 

  • Calvin Klein

    In seasons past, Calvin Klein has presented its collection on the runway. However, the American label is opting out of a show altogether this September and instead throwing a party with Vogue creative director at large Grace Coddington in celebration of her new namesake fragrance. Coddington starred in CK's fall campaign, which was also fronted by Kate Moss, Frank Ocean, Margot Robbie and Bella Hadid.

    The party will serve as an opportunity for CK to re-position itself as the brand recently appointed Raf Simons as its new chief creative officer in August. Simons is expected to present his first CK collection for the fall 2017 season.

  • Diane von Furstenberg

    Instead of a runway show or disco-themed presentation complete with dancing "It" models (as seen for fall 2016), Diane von Furstenberg is paring down her approach this season, to introduce her new chief creative officer, Jonathan Saunders. He will be taking key industry figures through his first collection for the brand in one-on-one appointments.

  • Public School

    In April of this year, Public School designers Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne went rogue — announcing that they were bucking the traditional fashion calendar and instead showing their collections in December and June, which aligns more with the retail calendar. In the same announcement, the guys also revealed that they would be combining their menswear and womenswear shows into a single, unified presentation. The first collection under the new system was shown on June 8 in New York City.   

    "Showing twice a year with both men's and women's in one show will allow us to really develop our ideas cohesively throughout the year and subsequently slow the entire process down," Chow told WWD at the time of the announcement. "We can actually enjoy our collections as opposed to being tied to the calendar."


  • Karen Walker

    In the past, she's staged runway shows at Pier 59 that drew social influencers The Fat Jewish, DJ Chelsea Leyland and model Jessica Hart to the front row, but Karen Walker is over it. She  wrote in a Business of Fashion op-ed in April that she is no longer going to be staging shows anymore.

    "At Karen Walker, there are no more shows for us as, these days, there are simply much better ways to engage with the industry and the customer," wrote Walker, adding that the current fashion system of presenting seasonal collections, pre-season collections and pre-pre-season collections is in need of a major revamp.

    The New Zealand-based designer noted, "in the digital conversation and retail arena, no one cares or notices where you are. All that matters is the quality of the ideas and the conversation."

  • Kate Spade New York

    Kate Spade New York's adorable set-ups won't be widely seen this season as the brand is instead "hosting an intimate, long–lead and fashion trade focused only presentation," according to a rep. The spring 2017 show will be by appointments only.

  • Thakoon

    Designer Thakoon Panichgul is switching things up. The designer — whose namesake label was acquired by Bright Fame Fashion, a Hong Kong-based investment firm led by Vivian Chou (daughter of textile and fashion billionaire Silas Chou) in December 2015 — is moving away from the wholesale business and opting for the direct-to-consumer model instead. After his show on Sept. 9, the pieces will be immediately available for purchase at his new website and his new brick-and-mortar store on Wooster Street in New York City.

  • Opening Ceremony

    From the Spike Jonze and Jonah Hill-penned play to a space age-themed runway complete with inflatable hovercrafts, Opening Ceremony's Humberto Leon and Carol Lim are never ones to just showcase their clothes on a typical runway. And this season they have another surprise in store.

    In addition to experimenting with the "see now, buy now" model, as they showcase in-season with their fall/winter 2016 collection, their show will be hosted by Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen, along with special guests Aidy Bryant, Ali Wong, Alia Shawkat, Aubrey Plaza, Diane Guerrero, Jessica Williams, Natasha Lyonne, Rashida Jones, Rosario Dawson, Rowan Blanchard, Sarah McBride and Whoopi Goldberg.

    No word yet on what's actually going to go down during the presentation, but one thing's for sure — it's already shaping up to be the season's funniest lineup yet.

  • J. Mendel

    Rather than stage a fashion show for his spring 2017 collection, designer Gilles Mendel of J. Mendel has opted instead for an intimate presentation. The by-appointment event will take place at a hotel on Sept. 14.

    Though he has traditionally held fashion shows to showcase his luxury creations and glittering celebrity front rows (Portia Doubleday, Nicki Hilton and Whitney Port have all been guests in the past), Mendel follows in the footsteps of Diane von Furstenberg by choosing a more intimate approach.