New York Fashion Week is losing another designer. Starting this summer, Alexander Wang — he of late-night-party-in-Bushwick-post-bus-tour-fashion-show fame (at least last season) — has decided to move his shows from the regular February and September schedule to June and December. Which is to say, precollection time. Which is a kind of insider fashion season that no one else (especially not consumers) actually understands and with which fashion itself has an ambivalent relationship.
Why? You may ask.
According to the company’s announcement, the move, which will also include combining the precollection and main collections into one, and dividing the label’s products into monthly deliveries (spread out between October-March and April-September), “is widely considered to be a transformative solution for the global industry, breaking out of the conventional fashion calendar.” It’s not specified who is doing all that considering, but let’s go with it for now.
In terms of real world benefit, this shortens the gap between initial product reveal and initial product delivery from six months to four, thus making consumers wait slightly less time for at least some purchasing satisfaction. It also means that if you follow the entertainment juggernaut that the ready-to-wear shows have become, there soon won’t be any #Wangfest to amuse you.
And it means that the shrinking of New York Fashion Week, which has implications for all sorts of local industries, including hotels, restaurants, transportation and florists, will continue.
After all, Mr. Wang’s departure from the conventional fashion calendar makes him the fifth New York designer of his generation to depart from the official NYFW schedule, following Proenza Schouler and Rodarte, both of which now show during couture in Paris; Altuzarra, which moved to Paris Fashion Week; and Rag & Bone, which put its show on hiatus.
(In separate but related news, Victoria Beckham has also announced that in September she is headed back to London for her 10th-anniversary show.)
Mr. Wang is not, as it happens, the first designer to think that precollection time is a good time to show. In 2016, Public School announced, to great fanfare, that it was switching from the traditional calendar to the precollection calendar. Then, it returned to NYFW, only to announce last December that it was abandoning the show format altogether and going direct to consumer.
Implication: The precollection move didn’t work that well — perhaps because having a big show when no one else is really having a show means no one really realizes it is happening.
If a tree falls in the woods, and all that.
Still, it is possible that Mr. Wang’s recent tendency to position his shows more like raves than collections means that leaving the formal confines of fashion week won’t create quite the same hurdles.
The move is all part of a general dissatisfaction with doing things the way they have always been done, and a free-floating sense of anxiety in fashion that the old way doesn’t work in the new digital world. This has given rise to the not-so-convincing see now/buy now movement, the drive to combine men’s and women’s shows (more successful and picking up steam) and the endless fashion week city-hopping.
Mr. Wang’s decision is especially interesting given that he has seemed somewhat unmoored ever since leaving his second job as creative director of Balenciaga in 2015, and then taking on the chief executive and designer roles at his own label in 2016. Despite a successful and buzzy collaboration with Adidas, he has played a decreasingly relevant role in the general fashion conversation. In October 2017, he ceded his C.E.O. role to Lisa Gersh, formerly of Goop, who presumably was part of the decision to change show dates and strike out on their own.
Whether it turns him into a pioneer others will follow is now the question.