Once upon a time, the only people at New York Fashion Week were top buyers and media from across the country. Now dozens of shows by famous and up-and-coming designers are accessible to anyone from anywhere with internet access.
That’s New York Fashion Week in the era of COVID-19.
It’s been a year since invite-only crowds sat shoulder to shoulder watching models parade down catwalks in venues across Manhattan. While the coronavirus was rampant in other parts of the world, face masks and social distancing hadn’t become the norm in America in February 2020.
This year, most events were adapted to a digital format, with NYFW.com as the hub for livestreams, designer panel discussions, fashion films and more. All anyone needed to take part was a free account with a username and password. You can still see highlights on the site.
The Council of Fashion Designers of America renamed its official New York Fashion Week calendar the “American Collections Calendar” and broadened its scope to showcase events featuring U.S. designers beyond New York City.
“We recognize the need for some (designers) to broaden their global visibility,” chairman Tom Ford explained in a public letter published on CFDA.com in January. “In the past few years, many of our members have chosen to show in Europe, Asia and other key markets, and in many cases off-calendar. The events of the past year have only highlighted the need for flexibility within the fashion system.”
The CFDA launched runway360.cfda.com, which curates schedules, photos and videos of American designers’ latest collections.
There’s a lot to like about soaking in the latest styles from the comfort of your couch. For starters, everyone gets a front-row seat. Videos of collections by Thalé Blanc, Proenza Schouler, Bibhu Mohapatra, Tadashi Shoji and Prabal Gurung shared up-close looks at garments from many angles. After all, these clothes are works of art, and films and photos made it easier to see and appreciate their craftsmanship.
WATCH AGAIN AND AGAIN
Convenience is another advantage. During prepandemic fashion weeks, it was impossible to see everything. Now fashion fans from all walks of life can explore collections at their own pace — and go back and watch them again and again.
Designers arguably get more bang for their buck, too. Instead of investing tens of thousands of dollars in a 15-minute runway show for a limited crowd, they can make a fashion film that’s posted online and has a broader reach and longer lifespan.
Still, there’s something special about seeing a runway show in person. The lines, the celebrity guests, feeling the thump of music through your seat when the house lights dim and the first model steps onto the catwalk — It’s electric. Hopefully, some of that will return to complement aspects of the digital fashion week that worked well. It will also be a boost for hotels, restaurants, retailers and others who benefit from foot traffic during New York Fashion Week.
Trend forecasting has become more difficult as some designers skip unveiling collections for next fall/winter in favor of showing off see-now, buy-now looks for spring. Rebecca Minkoff’s spring collection paired floral dresses and animal prints with coordinating face masks. (Minkoff also created an account on the racy U.K.-based subscription website OnlyFans to offer free behind-the-scenes looks at her collection.)
Ultimate Gray — one of Pantone’s two colors of the year — made frequent appearances in fall/winter collections. It was a go-to hue for lounge wear (still strong in 2021, thanks to COVID-19), suits and fitted dresses. Pantone also released its color report for fall 2021 and winter 2022 that opts for vibrant colors, including Fuchsia Fedora, Fire Whirl (a “vigorous red”) and Illuminating Yellow (Pantone’s other color of the year) instead of just traditional cold-weather browns and blues.
Other styles to watch for later this year: oversized, shin-length coats; sweater vests as layering pieces; sweet romantic dresses and cut-outs galore.