Why New York Fashion Week Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up To Be

By Simone

As New York Fashion Week comes to a close, I can’t help but breathe a sigh of relief. In theory, NYFW sounds like the most amazing experience, all beautiful people and fabulous clothes (not to mention the lavish celebrity-filled parties and runway shows that are basically performance art). It’s the less visible aspects of fashion week that make me dread it every year, though.

If you’re worried this is going to be a diatribe of the non-issue, first-world-problems variety, just hear me out for a second. I’m not just talking about the basic inconveniences created by this event, like not being able to find a cab anywhere or the fact that my eyes are permanently stuck in the eye-roll position from watching one too many leather-clad fashionistas negotiate cobblestone while wearing sunglasses at night.

It is unnecessarily exclusionary.

Events like Fashion’s Night Out (which was actually cancelled last year) started in the midst of the recession to lure the masses into engaging with fashion by plying us with a glass of champagne and the hope that you’ll get to rub shoulders with the rich and famous. I can dig a free party and booze. The reason Fashion’s Night Out was cancelled is because it became a burden on design houses that were constantly trying to one-up each other with the coolest party. The cost of the parties eventually outweighed the potential benefit of attracting new customers. So the event that was supposed to make fashion more accessible became so over-the-top that it became unsustainable. Even when Fashion’s Night Out did exist, it seemed more about being in-the-know—like what celebs would be attending and where the best gift bag would be. Many of the events required RSVPs and specialty invitations, so you couldn’t get in unless you were in-the-know.

It can make you feel like a poor frump.

Add more models to a city already crawling with them and the celebrities and socialites that come out in droves every night to attend NYFW-related events, and you’ve got the perfect storm of FOMO and self-doubt. Now your favorite outfit from Zara doesn’t seem so chic standing near people dressed in outfits that cost more than two months of rent. I get it, high-fashion is supposed to be aspirational, not attainable, and I’m generally OK with not having the newest and hottest wardrobe. On the weekend you’re lucky if you catch me wearing pants with a zipper or a type of bra that doesn’t have the word “sports” in front of it, that is, unless, I’m going out. In which case, I’m trying HARD to look good using my limited means. There’s nothing that defeats your confidence more than trying to painstakingly put together an outfit purchased on your over-extended credit card only to be rejected from your favorite club after watching a slew of 5-feet-9-inch rail-thin girls get let right in. For those of us who can’t access the clothes within the pages of Vogue, fashion is about being vulnerable, and I’ve never been more so than as a budget-conscious 23 year old navigating this city.

The cultural appropriation and tone-deaf lack of diversity.

The fact that the fashion industry has continued to ignore issues of diversity has been discussed at length by many a blog, so I won’t belabor the point. Designers’ refusal to represent a range of races and body-types is only more jarringly apparent in a city that is so obviously diverse. Not to mention it seems that every year at least one designer manages to offend a socially marginalized group (this year Nicholas K accessorized their models with “tribal” headdresses). The message it sends is that being a trendsetter is only convenient when it comes to selling merchandise and creating cache as a luxury brand, but not for breaking social barriers. Since this event is held in one of the most heterogeneous cities in the world, the homogeneity of fashion week is only more glaring and infuriating.

It has hijacked social media and the blog-verse has been taken over.

Refinery29, New York Magazine‘s fashion blog The Cut, Jezebel, and People are usually my go-to for a catch-all of real world fashion and beauty advice as well as pieces on lifestyle and pop culture. This week I’ll avoid it all like the plague, and even go so far as to stop following them on Twitter because I can’t stand one more live tweet about a show that I can’t see going on. Even Buzzfeed has been reporting about Fashion Week. When I read a post about how Harper Beckham and Alexander Wang’s niece are battling it out for the “it” baby of fashion week, that was the last straw. Great, I’m now jealous of someone who’s not potty-trained. The coverage has become a play-by-play of who’s cavorting with who and who’s seen where, and that’s enough to make you want to ditch your smartphone and return to the simpler days of the pre-internet Motorola Razr.

The whole event is overly promotional.

Even Subway (eat fresh!) has gotten in on Fashion Week with a tongue-in-cheek runway show of models dressed in sandwich wrappers. Once your production has become parody fodder for a company that hawks hoagies, it’s basically become the Superbowl of its genre. There are tons of similar gimmicks that this has basically become that are designed to either shock, amaze, or confuse us into caring about an event we would never be able to attend. Take the use of Google Glass, for example. In no way does a model wearing Google Glass affect my appreciation of clothes. The techie glasses aren’t even that aesthetically pleasing; they actually kind of remind me Geordi La Forge. All this results in a lack of authenticity, which creates a barrier that actually has the effect of distancing consumers from the art form it’s supposed to draw them closer to.

It’s easy to dismiss fashion week for what it is on the surface level, and sure, I could easily ignore a few fashion shows if I really wanted to. The problem is, I can’t help but notice NYFW has the unfortunate effect of magnifying some of the essential flaws of the city’s culture: the obsession with being an insider, the importance of being connected, the smugness of knowing something’s cool before everyone else, and the flippant flaunting of wealth (which is almost always cloaked in the term “taste”). Contrary to popular belief, these traits are not only the property of “hipsters.” It’s an epidemic amongst a certain class of New Yorkers, mainly those who have access to resources and at least some expendable income. Events like New York Fashion Week have successfully romanticized and normalized this behavior in the collective imagination making it more difficult to just be satisfied that we get to live in this amazing city.

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