Fashion forward: Fashion may still be a club, but we’re all invited

As a fashion writer, one of my ultimate goals was to go to New York Fashion Week. For those of you who aren’t as obsessed with the industry as I am, fashion week is a biannual tradeshow where designers present their collections for the upcoming season to buyers, magazine editors, fashion critics, journalists and nowadays, just about anyone with a good PR contact. Many from fashion’s old guard lament the fact that fashion week has become a street style and celebrity parade rather than a quiet event for industry professionals, but without the reigns being loosened, I never would have gotten the opportunity to go myself.

I had an inkling in the back of my mind that it wouldn’t be too long before my first fashion week, but I didn’t realize that I would get the chance this September. There was a competition hosted by one of the fashion social media networks that I use, Chictopia, and the boot company Ariat. I entered without much fanfare, using a picture that I took for a different post for my blog, Triple Thread. With the help of a lot of sharing on social media and some positive vibes, I actually secured one of three slots to cover two shows during the events for the spring and summer season of 2015. The spring looks are showed in fall and vice versa so the industry can be well versed in trends and stores can decide what they will carry come next season.

I have read countless articles chronicling everything from show going experiences to the best street style outside at Lincoln Center. As much vicarious living as I have done in the past, when I saw editors of my favorite magazines and other fashion heroes that I have, it felt more like seeing old friends than celebrities. Sure, they are very powerful friends. But the fact that I felt at ease taking a snap on a cellphone for the CEO of J. Crew, Mickey Drexler, hints at something that is on every fashion professional’s radar: the democratization of fashion.

It started with the rise of the fashion blogger. What was once outfit of the day style blogs or the occasional review of shows that were posted online has turned into multimillion dollar businesses. These are women and men who chose to begin publishing for themselves, for free, and have completely broken the glass case that was once around the events of fashion week. Don’t get me wrong, the average Joe off the street still can’t convince his way into a show without proper press credentials and a pass, but getting those things is more likely to happen now.

This isn’t to say that there isn’t a fair share of loitering around Lincoln Center to try and appear busy and in the know. For instance, Jimmy Kimmel had a crew set up filming for his popular segment “Lie Witness News” where they interviewed people about trends and designers that don’t exist. For instance, the crew had a man agreeing that the collection from Betsy Ross featuring stars and stripes was all the rage. They proved that maybe not everyone belongs at the shows.

But if fashion is something that we literally all participate to some degree, where should that line be drawn? Yes, we all get dressed each morning. And some of the interviewees on the segment clearly cared deeply about appearances, but didn’t care enough to actually be informed. More than likely, these are people who saw very few if any shows and just wanted to see and be seen. Even I got my picture taken by street style photographers and I won’t even pretend to be a big deal blogger. It seems like a quick ticket to at least five minutes of fame, so I can’t blame them too much for trying.

For an answer to the age old debate over the accessibility of fashion, I think the best place to turn is the collections themselves. There is a new wave of ease and to a degree, comfort overtaking the fashion world. I’m not sure they’ll ever embrace Chacos, the East Tennessee ugly but comfortable sandal of choice, but over the summer the hottest shoe out there was Birkenstocks. In the new lightning speed trend climate, it is almost impossible to disseminate whether designers or street style trend setters influence each other first. But one thing is for sure: designers have taken note of what real people are wearing and responded accordingly.

In her piece for the fall issue of T Magazine, the style publication from The New York Times, fashion critic Cathy Horyn remarks on the rise of wearable fashion even on the high fashion level.

“Today, as high fashion moves closer to mass media — with brand-hosted YouTube channels, films, huge spectacles — there is pressure to simplify,” Horyn wrote.

This was indeed the case for the two shows I attended.

The first, Taoray Wang, featured a collection of ready to wear basics and simple gowns. While this was Wang’s first show at New York Fashion Week and in fact her first collection for her own line, the line was a streamlined first attempt. It featured trends that have been a hit for several seasons such as pink and orange colorblocking alongside monochromatic looks in all black or white. With these looks, Wang was insightful enough to add fringed elements, one of the biggest trends for this fall and the upcoming spring season. Some of the looks were appropriate for work while some will look right at home on the red carpet, but none of them seemed to be lacking in a crucial element: comfort.

For my second show of the week, I was fortunate enough to preview the spring collection for one of my favorite forces in the retail world, J. Crew. While the brand used to be known for its basic New England inspired staples, it has long since lost its WASPy wings. The rise of the brand in the high fashion world fits the trajectory for my interest in fashion almost perfectly, so seeing it come to life at the presentation was a bit of a full circle moment for me. The presentation didn’t disappoint. The everyday luxury market that J. Crew has cornered is still alive and well for the brand. A fellow showgoer remarked to Drexler, whom I mentioned earlier, that the line of separates in cool and neutral tones was aspirational yet attainable. Those two words might as well be the J. Crew tagline.

In the end, I liken the current state of the fashion industry to another one of my great loves: the cross country team.

It is hard work to join and stay committed, but there are no tryouts and anyone who shows a lot of interest is welcome. While fashion might have formerly operated more like a football team, with key players calling all the shots, I think the open atmosphere will continue to bring positive changes to an industry that is slowly shedding its elitist image.

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