A new investor will get you beautiful fabrics, less stress, and a gift bag. These aren’t so common anymore. The gift bags aren’t. You’ve got to have a fat profit margin to justify a swag bag. For a while, promotional money flowed into the pockets of celebrities and influencers. Brands now know that this doesn’t always work so it’s back to the gift bag. The white one on the seats at Proenza Schouler’s show contained a flask of their signature fragrance in a leatherette pouch with a thin black strap tied into a bow around the bag’s throat.
Fatigue hangs over the New York shows like a pall in winter. The sun will come out tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar. But designers like Proenza Schouler’s Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez are caught in a bind. If design talent, influencers or e–commerce aren’t the answer to fashion’s malaise, what is?
Hurtling toward automation, Chinese tariffs, and a real-time shift in consumer tastes and habits, in summary, one of the biggest disruptions since the Sixties when industrialization and the youth movement combined to change everything, fashion finds itself off-kilter.
This is why designers are flinging themselves hither and yon in a search for interesting venues. Yes, venues are a big deal.
Therapists have a word for this. It’s called distraction. The places they come up with aren’t all that interesting. They’re just inconvenient and make it hard for editors and retailers to get to shows. Presumably, they give designers something more to think about other than what exactly do consumers want and should they stop designing originals and join the growing recycling businesses like Rent the Runway and The Real Real.
While it’s not been reported that any fashion stiffs have missed a show, fashionistas are getting to know the New York subway system and the newly exhorbitant ride share and taxi fares even as their travel budgets shrink.
Hernanadez and McCollough brought guests to a 27thStreet Manhattan location, a brief walk, even in heels, from a couple of previous shows. They seemed to be in a pragmatic mood. Appearing sober and relaxed, they chatted backstage post-show about the impact of a new investor brought into the company several months ago. “ We feel like we have our freedom back,” said Hernandez. about a sense of newfound freedom that has come with the financing.
Tailors brought into the studio to work, remade some jackets six times to get it to the duo’s specifications. “It’s a celebration of craft and beauty,” said Hernandez.
“It’s a mix of the last couple collections,” said McCollough. They’d been doing the jackets’ sharp “ shoulder for a while.” While the duo prattled on about the creative process, one imagined the cash infusion comes with an understanding that serious sales will be expected. Whether those Benjamins come from a fabulously sharp-shouldered jacket, a lush Grecian dress or a bottle of perfume, investors favorite color is always, green.
It’s not only indie design companies that are feeling the pressure enveloping the community.
Tension at Coach for Stuart Vevers. You can feel a tug-o-war between letting his ready-to-wear gene aloose and the pull of the bags that made the Coach brand and bring in the dough.
Coach has to decide what the showcase is.
A man carrying two Coach babybags is cute. A second man swinging the iconic coach bucket bag from his shoulder is cuter still in a forced gender neutral kind of way.
But you’ll quickly lose what footing you have without a commitment to one or the other. It’s not to say the clothes weren’t good. But once you got past the nifty trench in canvas or sumptuous shades of leather, you weren’t left with much that mattered.
Chuck Taylors with triple straps should give sneakerheads reason to swipe their cards. Yellow printed roach-killer ankle boots were cute. We needed more. What? The rest didn’t make it through customs in time?
It’s rumored that Pyer Moss spent $400,000 on its extravaganza. Not a bad marketing budget. We don’t know the exact figure but we know it was a lot, a whole lot. The theater presentation featured two distinct collections – one eponymous and the other for Pyer Moss x Reebok. There was a choir with a conductor, a white tuxedoed band, a raised runway, a writer/orator, there were even barricades nearby and a mob scene reminiscent of early Marc Jacobs shows – outside Brooklyn’s Kings Theater where the event took place.
Guests remarked that there was actually food at the after-party attended by hundreds. Not just drinks and a few canapes. Where would all this money come from? Kerby Jean-Raymond, owner of Pyer Moss, has spoken openly and frequently about his financial struggles as a designer trying to make it in NYC. My guess is Reebok.
To invest in the most relevant new designer on the scene today is a good marketing investment for the sneaker company, a fashion sector that counts profits in the billions. For Jean-Raymond, the math may be more complicated.
What’s the ratio of these marketing dollars to production and distribution?
The calculation for an emerging brand like Pyer Moss is to build brand awareness and equity as fast as possible and then partner the heck out of everything. Jean-Raymond’s a rare talent who’s as skilled a showman as John Galliano, a courageous bleeding-heart activist and a bonafide designer. Could he have charged entry to his show and made enough money to fund his next collection?
I would have paid a price for entry and come away satisfied.