London Fashion Week has long been considered the “kooky aunt” of fashion weeks, as The New York Times graciously described it this week. The British fashion extravaganza has been known for shows that focus on more eccentric styles (think Alexander McQueen), versus, say, the brasher and more commercial New York Fashion Week, best known for its infamous white elephant: the tent at Lincoln Center complete with its sponsor’s Mercedes-Benz cars—oh, and some catwalk shows.
But this season, editors returned from the Big Apple gushing about bigger and brighter shows that took place in a citywide set of venues and featured more innovative performances. This development raises the question: Is the landscape of the month-long, global procession of fashion weeks changing? Or is it just that performance on the catwalk is becoming part of the show in every location, and New York is just doing it better?
At NYFW this year, Opening Ceremony presented its new collection in no less than a one-act play, written and directed by Hollywood darling Spike Jonze with help from Jonah Hill. Bad boy British-designer Gareth Pugh, on the other hand, chose to show in New York rather than his home country this season. And show he did. Performance artists entertained the audience in front of films of models showing off his new looks (the clothes weren’t even present).
Ralph Lauren staged an extravaganza in Central Park with models projected as Godzilla-like holograms on a giant screen over the lake; and Rebecca Minkoff went high-tech, handing out 3-D glasses to the audience and presenting clothes that could sing.
While London was a bit more regal, it, too, seems to be on the up.
Consider a day spent this week with Burberry in Hyde Park at the beautiful Prince Albert Memorial, where the label presented wrap-around, scarf-print coats tied with colorful netting for Spring/Summer 2015, in an airy venue decorated with insect motifs.
The afternoon continued over high tea with the hip Chinese designer Huishan Zhang at the luxurious Rosewood hotel, giving a feel of Old Shanghai seducing the fashion aristocracy, British style. “We are in London so I wanted to adapt some of the local culture,” Zhang told The Daily Beast.
One New York publicist wandering through the Rosewood declared, “You don’t find hotels like this in New York.”
Other London designers this season have indulged in the city’s history, staging their shows everywhere from Westminster Abbey to the Whitehall Palace.
“The landscape of fashion weeks is always changing and shifting, but New York has been on a roll for several years with a stellar lineup of young talent,” former NYFW executive director Fern Mallis said.
Are London and New York exchanging fashion week reputations, or is it just the nature of presenting fashion that is changing everywhere?
In both London and New York, as in Paris, designers are looking for ever-more unusual venues, and one is seeing the addition of more and more performance aspects added to the shows, like Burberry with its annual concerts.
But the real fashion week winner is Paris. The City of Light is consistently the hard-to-beat event known for spectacular settings coupled with extraordinarily crafted fashion. It will probably always be number one.
And the most notable aspect of Paris Fashion Week is that most of the big designers show without a performance, if you forgive Rick Owens for his step dancing last year. They don’t really need it!
After all, “Paris is the birthplace of fashion, it makes sense to show there,” said regular Manish Arora.
But, as the NYT pondered the question about London and its “kooky aunts,” exhausted fashion journalists everywhere began to say who cares!
“All shows [should be] in one tent in one city,” I cried. “Or better still, online,” said a colleague.