On the Eve of New York Fashion Week, What’s Next?
14th September 2020

Four fashion insiders debate the questions swirling around shows, clothes and race.

By Vanessa Friedman

Last season, the rising tide of Covid-19 lapped at fashion’s heels as the style set moved from city to city, show to show. In New York, Chinese designers, stuck at home, missed their collection bow; as Milan began, one Italian had died of the virus. By the end of that week, Armani had decided to hold a show with no audience. In Paris, parties were canceled, masks handed out and ushers stood tall with big vats of hand sanitizer. Then, just after everyone scattered for home, the pandemic began.

This season everything has changed. Most of the shows will be digital. Some big names are sitting the whole thing out. Others are doing their own thing, on their own schedule. There’s angst in the air. But fashion is not over. It is simply in flux, grappling with big questions about old systems that for years seemed irreplaceable.

To explore what that could mean, The Times gathered four people in the thick of it all: Tory Burch, of the namesake brand; Virgil Abloh, of Off-White and Louis Vuitton men’s wear; Gwyneth Paltrow, of Goop; and Antoine Arnault, of LVMH (the largest luxury group in the world). This conversation has been edited and condensed.

Vanessa I’ve got to ask: Given all the absentees this season, what is the point of a show any more?

Virgil Recently we did a men’s wear show in Shanghai that borrowed from film and theatrical experience to give a positive message. Instead of a traditional runway show that can be very serious, with models with serious gazes on their face, walking down the runway being hangers for clothing, what I did was make it almost like a Thanksgiving Day parade. The models were street-cast, just walking down the streets as if they were conversing with friends, bestowing a feeling that we’re not generally awarded in this time. Underneath the practicality of clothes, my studio has an ambition that the world can be a better place.

Tory Strangely, before the pandemic, I decided not to show this season. We were opening a store on Mercer Street, and I thought it would be really interesting to go back to where we were when we first launched this company with a store event that lasted the day, and we had everyone stop by. I’m thinking a lot about where I’ve been, and also about the product — simplicity, quality and then showing in a more personal way.

Antoine For smaller brands it makes sense to skip a season or two. It’s definitely expensive. And when you realize the price it costs, then once you don’t do it, you’re actually quite relieved. For brands that have the means to produce shows, it’s fantastic to have this creative world live. And it is not only a personal decision. There’s a whole economy around these shows. That should not be underestimated.

Gwyneth When we started doing G Label on Goop, I did feel the fashion system was a bit hard to access — possibly a little antiquated in terms of the schedule. And I really responded to the streetwear cadence of drops, the buy now, wear now, building up some excitement and pent-up demand around a collection. During the pandemic, we’ve gotten super-scrappy. We’ve slashed every marketing budget, and we have been able to make an impact. When a business is under a bit of pressure, you’re having to get closest to that creative spirit. It’s the upside of social media, which doesn’t always have much of an upside.

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