Look at me! - Monocolumn | Monocle


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10 September 2014

New York is coming to the tail end of another Fashion Week, which means there are a lot of hungry people around. I’m not referring to the models: I mean the stylists, editors, bloggers and even designers. They are all much hungrier than the models.

What I’m trying to say is that it seems most everyone is starving for attention and the art of garment-making is taking a back seat. All of the focus on the runway and the street seems to be more about the production rather than the clothes.

So far we have seen a one-act play from Opening Ceremony, a holographic show in Central Park by Ralph Lauren and a show evoking a 1960s music festival with 130,000 flowers by Tommy Hilfiger. And, while once upon a time it was key to be in the main event space, more designers are shifting away to hold shows offsite where they can feel more intimate or special.

While the average length of a show is merely 10 minutes, the costs soar. Lighting alone at Lincoln Center costs about $40,000 (€31,000) and overall the total for venue leases comes to $12m (€9.3) each season. The entire affair results in about $860m (€665m) annually for the city; that’s more than either the US Open, New York marathon or Super Bowl generates.

A fashion show is just that – a show – but even so, the production is on the street as well. There we’ve seen green hair, SpongeBob Squarepants jumpers, athletic underwear as outerwear and beaded face masks that cover both the nose and mouth.

The peacocking loses sight of what fashion truly is. Rather than a mask, it should be a tool of communication. For designers, fashion is art; an expression of their creativity. For those on the street rather than the runway, fashion should be about self-expression. Personal style conveys a piece of your identity to the rest of the world. But at Fashion Week, I have the impression that the main goal is less about self-expression and much more about outshining your neighbour to win more photographs and fanfare.

There is a growing space for the unconventional but it shouldn’t be so extraordinary that it loses sight of authenticity, art and craftsmanship.

Megan Billings is a researcher in Monocle’s New York bureau.


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