Last Thursday morning, while employers all over New York instructed staff to work from home because of the blizzard that had descended on the city, fashion editors, buyers, and bloggers showed up en masse at Clarkson Square and Madison Square Garden. Not easily deterred by weather, they put on their sturdiest stilettos and scaled snow banks to attend the first day of New York Fashion Week 2017. “It didn’t impact our turnout one bit,” says Cat Bennett, managing director of fashion events at IMG, the company that produces runway shows for a third of the designers, including A-listers like Jeremy Scott, Prabal Gurung, and Oscar de la Renta. “Of course, in the background, my team and I were having a collective heart attack.” But as Bennett points out, even when snow isn’t fluttering down (and spoiling attendees’ blowouts), New York Fashion Week is always an enormous, coronary-inducing undertaking.
In the ’90s, it was strictly an industry event that involved a handful of key American designers—among them, Calvin Klein, Michael Kors, Donna Karen, and Ralph Lauren. Fast forward to 2017: 230,000 members of the fashion industry and the general public will attend as many as 218 unveilings of individual collections over seven days. That doesn’t even include smaller gatherings that take place simultaneously, like Harlem Fashion Week and Small Boutique Fashion Week.
For those attending, those seven days require crisscrossing the city to catch one show after another. And for all this frantic rushing around, many people often feel disappointed that they didn’t get to see everything they’d hoped. “It is a grind, and by that I mean 18-hour days,” says Frank Zambrelli, who spent the last three decades designing for Chanel, Coach, and Judith Leiber before launching a bespoke handbag company, 1Atelier. “There’s a genuine lack of consolidation now that once used to exist. It’s become a tornado.”