The first Fashion Week ever was launched in NYC in 1943 by legendary publicist Eleanor Lambert, as American fashion’s counteract to the already established Parisian couturiers of the inter-war and pre-war years. New York Fashion Week was last on the schedule of fashion weeks till 1999, when it became first on a schedule with the intervention of prominent American designers such as Helmut Lang and Calvin Klein. The initiative aimed at reversing the notion that the American fashion industry was a knock-off version of the European. Through these years, NY Fashion Week managed to break the rules and set the tone. This incredible story can be best told through numbers, names and spicy details!
Size and impact
This season (September 4-11, 2014) the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week official schedule includes a bit more than 90 Spring/Summer 2015 shows, presentations and special events at Lincoln Center and throughout Manhattan, to be attended by more than 110,000 guests. Adding to that all the off-schedule events, you come up with over 500 shows and 232,000 attendees on an annual basis. According to the New York City Economic Development Corporation (Sept.2013), Fashion Week generates an estimated $532 million in direct visitor spending ($6 million go to hotels), which translates to $865 million in total economic impact per year. On average, each attendee spends $650 during the 8-day event (Fordham University report).
Official rules and unwritten laws
New York Fashion Week is an invitation-only event reserved for accredited members of the media (journalists, editors, photographers etc.), selected VIPs, and other fashion industry insiders. Those registered as ‘Press’ at the MB Fashion Week should contact designer publicists with invitation and/or backstage-access/interview requests for each one of the shows while registered photographers and videographers are directly entitled to only shoot from the riser. A designer contact list is distributed to them ahead of the events. You can only buy a limited number of tickets through a special hotel or credit-card package weeks earlier. Front-row is VIP-occupied, but seconds before the show empty seats might be filled up with other people that are standing or sitting behind. As for designers, the newbies, or upcoming, showcase the first days, international names prefer the weekend (more convenient to European guests), commercial brands go for the morning slots and more conceptual/artistic ones love the evenings.
Ruth Finley is in charge of NYFW’s official calendar since 1945, orchestrating all related events (shows, presentations, after-parties, and even live streams), mediating scheduling conflicts among designers, and compiling all the info into a Fashion Calendar that exceeds 25 pages and charges its subscribers $450 annually. Fern Mallis is known as the founder (1993) and former Executive Director of the modern-day NYFW, initially named ‘7th on Sixth’ and supported by the CFDA, aiming at elevating American fashion industry to a global status.
This season MBFW schedule includes designers from 12 countries, including Australia, Brazil, China, France, India, Israel, Italy, Korea, Spain and the United States, along with 15 designers making their MBFW debut.
Their signature NYFW strut is quick and powerful compared to a smooth and slow style in Parisian catwalks. A majority of models in their early/almost 20s is sometimes joined by iconic octogenarians – Carmen Dell’Orefice, 83, and Daphne Selfe, 85. Supermodel Karlie Kloss, 22, walked a record number of 31 shows when she was just 15 (FW 2008)!
They are highly involved in the process of building up a show, collaborating with the designer, the makeup artists, the hairstylists, and the producers to define the whole concept. A star stylist’s daily earnings can be around $8,000 hopefully for 10-14 days, but the alternative to that, is lesser-known names that would ask $10,000 for the whole job.
During the shows, they are tightly arranged in the media riser facing the catwalk, each one occupying a 1’ x 1’ space, taking on average 2,000 pics per show; 70,000 per NYFW season.
Online and traditional media
It started in 1943 with the coverage of 53 editors and developed into an event covered by 4000+ registered members of the international press from 34 countries, with online outlets quadrupling over the last decade (only 90 in 2005). Social media boomed too. Last season fashionistas Instagrammed 99,000 pics and sent 672,000 tweets. Victoria Beckham’s FW13 show earned a record 17,173 tweets.
Working for the NYFW
On average, a full-time PR associate’s NYFW workday is 14 hours and a model’s is 12. Each day of the MBFW, Lincoln Center is guarded by 50 or more security people, plus specially-trained dogs.
Catwalks and venues
Crews working 24/7 need 3 weeks to build the Lincoln Center MBFW tents. Last February, IMG Fashion remodeled the space to achieve greater customization and flexibility in showcasing and seating options. The changes reflect the need for more stimulating presentations/shows and the frequent pressure to increase front-rowers. Often, the shape of the catwalk is determined by the number of VIPs in attendance (U-shaped runways accommodate a longer front-row). After Pavilion got revamped successfully, we can’t wait to see Salon’s latest upgrade.
The average delay for each one is 30 minutes and the duration 10-15 minutes, during which you’ll probably see 20-40 looks; in some exceptional cases up to 90.
Cost of the shows
Venues at Lincoln Center, on average, can cost from $15,000 (The Hub) to $47,500 (Stage) and $60,000 (Theater). Off-site venues can cost less or more, depending mostly on their size and location. Add up to this $5,000-15,000 for PR, $20,000-50,000 for a livestream of an off-Lincoln Center or Milk Studios show (streaming, alone, costs around $12,000), $100,000 for A-list celebrity attendance, $15,000 for non-A-list-and-exclusive celeb attendance, or clothes-and-expenses for upcoming fashionistas agreeing to sit front-row. In total, a basic runway show – minus celebrities – can cost $200,000 while a big brand can spend $750,000 or more.
Recently, during the NY Fashion Week, attendees consumed 26,000 cups of espresso, 240 bottles of Moët & Chandon champagne and over 45,000 Fiber One bars at Lincoln Center; they also received 200,000 gift bags, if seated in the first 2-3 rows.
A problem to be solved
According to Jezebel.com, 78.69% of the models, on 148 Fall/Winter 2014 shows at the NYFW, were white (only 985 out of 4,621 being of color). This ratio has stayed roughly constant for the past 6 seasons…