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What New York Fashion Week Means To American Designers Today

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

To know what will be the it things to wear in the fall, the fashion world turns to New York Fashion Week, which began just on Sunday. Of course, it looks a little different this year. Not only will events be nearly completely digital again, but many of the superstars of the fashion world won't be participating. Here to walk us through what that might mean for the future impact of New York Fashion Week and the state of American fashion is Christina Binkley, the editor-at-large of Vogue Business.

Welcome.

CHRISTINA BINKLEY: I'm glad to be here.

CHANG: Glad to have you. So can you just start out by explaining what kind of role does New York Fashion Week typically play in the world of American fashion?

BINKLEY: Yeah, typically, as in years past, the idea of New York Fashion Week and the ones that follow in London and Milan and Paris are to introduce the new collections from high-level designers. It used to be to retailers and then, since the advent of social media, really direct to consumers as well.

CHANG: Well, how would you say the pandemic specifically has affected fast fashion?

BINKLEY: To be honest with you, we'll see how it comes out, but I think it's been a real killer. The behaviors of consumers this year - I mean, we went to home, and we moved away from fashion. And, of course, fast fashion feeds on people wanting to buy new clothes all the time and then throw them away...

CHANG: Yeah.

BINKLEY: ...Which has not been a thing this year. I don't know about you, but I sometimes wear the same pair of sweats three, four days in a row now.

CHANG: Confession - I'm wearing the same pair of pants the third day in a row this week.

BINKLEY: (Laughter) Ta da - and isn't it wonderful?

CHANG: (Laughter) It is. I'm so comfortable right now.

BINKLEY: Yeah. That's a really important point, that you're comfortable now. We're liking some of this. And that says...

CHANG: Yeah.

BINKLEY: ...Something about where we're going.

CHANG: Yeah. Well, that leads me to ask, are designers rethinking what workwear looks like? Like, with all of us loving lounging in yoga pants and T-shirts and sweatshirts, is officewear going to look super-different next year?

BINKLEY: It's a stark change but not as stark as it would have been if we'd been dressing the way people did in 1965, for instance, right? We were already wearing streetwear to the office. Jeans are a normal in most offices. So it's not a crazy leap, but I don't think we go back completely.

CHANG: That's actually very reassuring (laughter). Well, as events have shifted more online and designers have opted out of that, how will all of that affect the New York Fashion Week's role as the main stage for American fashion?

BINKLEY: I think it's a little chaotic right now to be honest with you. For one thing, they decided weeks ago - Tom Ford is the new head of the CFDA, the sort of trade group that oversees U.S. fashion. And they've changed it. They're no longer calling it New York Fashion Week. They're calling it the American Collections. That's a sign that they're recognizing that this idea of one week where everybody goes to one city and consumes fashion and orders fashion is no longer appropriate.

So Eckhaus Latta, which is a U.S. fashion brand based between New York and Los Angeles - they've decided that they're going to show this year on March 2. Well, that's Paris Fashion Week. They are one of many brands that are just doing it when it makes sense to them as opposed to...

CHANG: Interesting.

BINKLEY: ...Prescribed times.

CHANG: Well then, overall, how is the health of the American fashion industry right now?

BINKLEY: When you start hearing companies saying, oh, we think we're doing pretty good; our revenues are only down 25%, that tells you there's a lot of pain out there.

CHANG: Yeah.

BINKLEY: But I'm seeing something, and I think this is really important. A lot of the brands I'm talking to have cut the size of their collections in half. And I don't know anybody who doesn't think that's a good thing. We know there's too much fashion being made out there. We don't need a black turtleneck from every single brand.

CHANG: (Laughter).

BINKLEY: So they're drilling into what they do. When we teach branding in MBA programs, we tell people to do what they do really well and not try to do everything. And I think we're seeing more of that now as brands try to survive. So ultimately, this may be a really good thing.

CHANG: Christina Binkley, editor-at-large at Vogue Business, thank you very much for joining us today. This was fun.

BINKLEY: It was my pleasure.

(SOUNDBITE OF LUPE FIASCO'S "KICK, PUSH") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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