How NYC's Upper Echelon Altered Fashion with NYFW
PART I OF A II PART NYFW SERIES
Written by Kyn Hyde
It’s that time again. The City’s sidewalks are oozing with even more people than usual, but this go-around they’re stomping from Midtown to SOHO in MSCHF’s Big Red Boots.
Welcome to New York Fashion Week, where privileged, white TikTok influencers, self-proclaimed local celebrities, and industry insiders all (seemingly) coexist at some of the most exclusive events in the style universe. All in the name of “fashion.”
But there’s trouble in paradise. The latest rendition of NYFW is so far removed from its original essence that a first-class ticket into the right spaces is no longer based on credibility or actual fashion competence, but rather on popularity and one’s ability to finance their experience.
In case you didn’t know, early to mid-20th century Europe – Paris in particular – had a dictatorship on fashion. Designers of the highest regard were all based in Europe including:
1. Madeline Vionnet
2. Gabrielle “CoCo” Chanel
4. Jeanne Lanvin
In the midst of a second World War, humanity found itself consumed by intensifying chaos at the hands of imperialism, capitalism, and racism, affecting all aspects of transcontinental collaboration, trade, and exchange.
Fashion was not excluded from any of this.
American publicists, journalists, and critics in the style landscape were outcasts from prominent fashion conversations due to their lack of proximity and inability to commute to Europe during the cutthroat reign of The Central Powers – Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, and the Ottoman Empire – during World War II. After tirelessly mirroring European trends and design innovations for years, members of America’s fashion society finally had no choice but to forge their own relevance in this gatekept fashion industry, as reported by the American Rosie The Riveter Association.
Let’s face it, World War II drained European countries of their hope, their interests in recreational activities, and especially their raw resources. The elaborate materials that French and Italian couturiers were known for, were now being used to aid soldiers in this global conflict that impacted the entire world. America’s upper-echelon fashion figures used Europe’s plight to their advantage.
In 1943, a fellow Midwest Maven by the name of Eleanor Lambert executed the first interpretation of New York Fashion Week– except it was originally christened as “Press Week”. As a premier fashion publicist and advertiser, the pressure of reinstalling fashion’s pipeline in America was assigned to none other than Lambert. I mean, this was the same woman that founded the Council of Fashion Designers of America years later in 1962.
For lack of better words, Lambert was THEE leading lady behind American fashion for decades at a time.
Image via Getty Images
The first Press Week acted exactly as its name suggests… It provided American Designers with press and wide scale recognition for their contributions to the global fashion movement. This event centralized the showcasing of American fashion presentations, and for the first time, forced foreign design pioneers to look to America for inspiration. ”American(s) found creative ways to create stylish clothing and accessories,” explained American Rosie The Riveter Association. Some of the US-based designers whose collections were viewed in the original Press Week of 1943 include:
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1. Claire McCardell
2. Hattie Carnegie
Image via Getty Images
Lambert and her team’s efforts were so well received, that thanks to her, American talent was finally recognized in favorable publications such as Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, in ways similar to the coverage documented during modern Fashion Weeks.
But one key difference characterizes how the foundations of NYFW differ from what we know today.
Social media and the democratization of the fashion industry at large directly contribute to the sweeping “accessibility” of NYFW. One would think that this modernized “attainable” NYFW experience benefits a larger demographic of people, it is 2023 right?
A first-class ticket into the "right" spaces is no longer based on credibility or actual fashion competence, but rather on popularity and one’s ability to finance their experience.
Oh, and of course cis-gendered whiteness.
The Black and Queer fashion landscape during NYFW looks entirely different from the “glitz and glam” of presentations praised by industry giants. Mainstream fashion continues to be plagued with oversight, classism, capitalism, and overt racism, constructing an environment crowded with redundancy, and saturated by whiteness.
Worry not– innovation and ingenuity continue to prevail through the societally- marginalized minds of creatives found in the not-so-hidden depths of NYC, that have shamelessly established a fashion domain of their own.
In the next post of 'Ol Dirty Fashion's NYFW series, my co-contributing editor, Kendra, and I will debrief from our Fashion Week experience after we immerse ourselves in eccentric and non-conforming spaces, fueled by the unconventional talent that leaves your mainstream line-up in the dust!