Is it a relic or a revolution?
CREDIT: Wonderland Magazine
On paper, fashion week is when designers, brands, or “houses” present their latest collections via runway shows to any potential buyers. Through extensive media coverage, these events serve as a menu for buyers wanting to put in offers, a source for trend forecasting and a spectacle for anyone in the fashion industry. Since its inception in 1943, it has transcended beyond strictly business into cultural phenomenon territory.
With New York Fashion Week (NYFW) behind us and London, Milan and Paris throughout September, it is time to reflect on what exactly Fashion Month is — as an event, an institution and a time capsule of style trends and societal significance. Is the ritual of it all too sacred to touch, or is it time to reassess whether the pillars of haute couture are worth upholding.
At a 2017 NYFW red carpet event Jim Carrey said, “I wanted to find the most meaningless thing I could come to.” Events such as fashion week have long been ridiculed for their self-importance. With political turmoil, social injustices and a crippling environmental state, it is difficult for people to wrap their heads around the necessity of pretty people walking in overpriced clothes for a room of pretty people looking to buy these overpriced clothes. This ridicule is only fueled by social media where influencers are seen flocking to branded events galore with no real sense of purpose.
Just past mere differences of opinion are protestors storming the runway to advocate for causes regarding the environment, animal cruelty and the mistreatment of garment workers. Fashion is an industry that is a source of major controversy in these three regards. Princeton University found that the fashion industry is currently responsible for more annual carbon emissions than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. Fendi, Dior and Louis Vuitton are just three brands of many still releasing products using real animal fur. Lastly, female garment workers often work in poor working conditions and suffer abuse and harassment at the hands of their employers.
With these ethical dilemmas presented, why should we even celebrate fashion week?
Several labels have been integrating protest into their practices. Anthony Hendrickson’s M65 line titled its collection “America Lost and Found.” From upcycled garments to various American motifs, the line explored connection and unity in our country. Events like the “Double Take” fashion show and the Runway of Dreams put inclusivity and advocacy for people with disabilities at the forefront of fashion. Runways are increasingly a more accepting space for minority groups and physical diversity. Tommy Hilfiger’s show included plus size male models, a group generally excluded from the body positivity movement. Additionally, 25% of the designers on the CFDA fashion calendar are Black.
The biggest reason why fashion week will remain the fixture it is is perhaps the most obvious. Despite all its shortcomings, it is fun. There is something about the personalities of pop culture coming together for fashion communion. We get to see the best and brightest of fashion (whether we agree with it or not). We get to every celebrity and their mother celebrating 25 years of the Fendi baguette bag. We get to see emerging designers like Dauphinette and Elena Velez pull up a seat at the table. There is inspiration and promise to be found.
Love it or hate it, fashion week is undoubtedly influential and an ever-evolving sign of the times. Interpret how you will Timothée Chalamet saying “I think societal collapse is in the air – it smells like it” at the Venice Film Festival recently. The world is moving at rates impossible to keep up with and yet these three things remain: change, celebrity and the Fendi baguette bag. But the greatest of these is the Fendi baguette bag.
Alex Mowrey is the Online Director and Videographer for Rowdy Magazine. She is studying Digital Film & TV production at the University of Florida. You can find her on Instagram @a.mow