Clothes and Memories: Fern Mallis on Fashion Week


It’s here. Fashion Week in New York. Since moving to the city in 1994 (gulp), I have been involved in one way or another in this event. My earliest Fashion Week experience was during my first “real” job in New York, working for Donna Karan. The assistants (like me) were often asked to work behind the scenes during the shows. Headset on, clipboard in hand, I’d help wrangle the VIPs, stay out of the photographers way, and tactfully move people into their proper seats. I’d also steal glances at the runway, where I’d mentally note the items I wanted to order with my tiny–but awesome–clothing allowance. Now when I occasionally go to a Show, it’s just not the same. Whereas it used to have a purpose, now it seems like it’s just a big spectacle. This NY Times piece featuring the iconic Fern Mallis nails it. The whole intention of Fashion Week seems to be…what? Designers have been bullied into giving their clothes for free to most of the people at the show–bloggers, celebrities, celebutants, etc.–it’s become a little ridiculous, and not really a good business proposition to spend money on the Shows. I am sure this is why so many designers are cancelling shows and instead holding in-house presentations for buyers and top editors. I think the downward spiral began, unfortunately, in the late 90’s when celebrities were invited and given the coveted front row seat which used to go strictly to the buyers, editors, and couture clients. In other words, the people who actually, you know, help the designer sell their designs. I think it’s important to remember that NY Fashion Week features many small businesses, many hardworking designers and staff, and it’s supposed to be a boon to the industry, instead of another fancy way of getting something for nothing at all.

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