Our Thoughts on IMG’s Thoughts on Reining In Fashion Week

Much is being made of the quotes that Catherine Bennett — senior vice-president and managing director of IMG, which runs New York Fashion Week — gave the Wall Street Journal (sub required) in an interview that ran yesterday. One in particular is ruffling feathers, that Fashion Week “was becoming a zoo. What used to be a platform for established designers to debut their collections to select media and buyers has developed into a cluttered, often cost-prohibitive and exhausting period for our industry to effectively do business.”

The article went on to outline some of the ways IMG will “control and reduce audience capacities,” as another spokesperson said, to make invitations “once again an exclusive pass for true fashion insiders.” These include redesigning the venues at Lincoln Center, presumably reducing their size, and making other changes aimed at better enabling VIPs to feel more important. Additionally, two smaller new offsite venues will open, geared toward younger labels.

Will it work? In a word: no. The truth is, it isn’t up to IMG who’s invited. Designers make that call. If designers want the peacocks there, attracting the now-de rigueur frenzy of street-style snappers, they’ll be invited. Or, if the designers want the cheerleaders there, breathlessly tweeting every amaaazing look, they’ll be invited. Not just invited, but courted. Most designers will tell you that fashion design is not an art, it’s a business. And anything they can do to increase business, the better. Besides, fashion’s old image of exclusivity has long since been shattered by Chinese manufacturing, fast fashion, Fashion’s Night Out, reality television, what Suzy Menkes calls the “whirligig” of the fashion schedule, and so on.

Some designers, those who don’t necessarily depend on mass appeal, have already taken matters into their own hands. Earlier this year, Oscar de la Renta said that the New York collections had become “megashows” attended by “20 million people with zero connection to the clothes.” He thus slashed his guest list of interlopers. Voila.

For IMG to spend years democratizing fashion in this digital age, only to lament the influx of those with no “tenuous connection to the fashion industry,” as they put it, seems pretty disingenuous. As the first website ever invited to a fashion show, we at Hint haven’t always loved each subsequent tech wave, i.e. blogs, podcasts, Twitter, etc. But while we agree that Lincoln Center “has been swarmed with fashion bloggers, street-style photographers and fashion fans…in addition to the hundreds of journalists and scores of celebrities,” it’s a little late now to try to rein it in. The ship has sailed, the bell has rung, the tweet is tweeted.

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