Autumn in New York. Why Does It Seem So Excessive?

Photograph by Joachim Ladefoged Close

Photograph by Joachim Ladefoged

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Photograph by Joachim Ladefoged

New York Fashion Week can look like an elaborate nod to a few obsessed bloggers. Attendees -- a mix of press, fashion editors, stylists, buyers and fashion directors -- have probably seen much of the line beforehand. By the time the lights go down and the models hobble out onstage, the audience isn't all abuzz with "Will it be pastels or minimalist chic?"

So why hold the show at all?

Branding.

"There really is no better way to get an overall impression of what the collection looks like," says Olivier Theyskens, creative director of Theory and Theyskens Theory. "It's even stronger, and easier, than an advertising campaign, because it's immediately visible to everyone everywhere."

Theyskens says the show is as much a strategy session for "people inside the house responsible for different departments" as it is for the outside world. When a good collection is assembled well, it can affect how they promote it. "When you see a show, you get the collection's energy," Theyskens says. "When a collection is important, people get it instantly."

That's why labels are often willing to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a presentation that usually doesn't last longer than 10 minutes. It's not enough time to see each piece of clothing, but it's enough to make an impression.

That's also why designers like Theyskens and Oscar de la Renta are doing smaller shows this year, says Rachel Strugatz, a fashion reporter for Women's Wear Daily, who recently wrote an article about fashion shows' increasing reliance on social media. If the point of a fashion show is to disseminate a brand, Strugatz says, social media can do a lot of the heavy lifting.

"It's a matter of cost," she says. "To produce a show is so astronomically expensive that brands want to see some return on what they're putting in, and social media has the ability to do that." Because "people of importance in this world have already seen the clothes, Fashion Week is becoming more and more of a branding opportunity for those participating," she says.

"Yes, many people try to avoid putting on a show because it's such an investment," Theyskens says. "It just sort of melts within 10 minutes." But it's the best way to express a brand, he says.

Oh, and another reason: "No one's found a better way to do it."

James Tarmy reports on arts and culture for Bloomberg Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News.

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