The Big Apple is home to some of the fashion industry's most exciting talent and some of the best street style in the world. And thankfully, the womenswear SS21 show is set to go on this year, albeit with some significant changes. Taking place from September 13th to 16th, the biannual event will be scaled down to just 60 shows, with notable absences on the timetable including Marc Jacobs, Proenza Schouler, Tory Burch, and Michael Kors. But not to despair, after all, New York is home to some of the best fashion schools on the planet, and it’s a city with a knack for birthing young talent. With 15 new brands on the schedule, it’s a chance for emerging designers to steal the spotlight from more established names.
Instead of the usual chaos that ensues with Fashion Week, the upcoming event will look drastically different. There will be no racing off to shows, frantically hailing down yellow cabs, or standing shoulder to shoulder outside venues amongst New York's most stylish. With only a handful of physical events still taking place, the remaining live shows will adhere to strict health and safety guidelines. Indoor events will be presented with no audience, and outdoor shows will be limited to 50 guests. Attendees will all count face coverings as a mandatory accessory, which will give them an excuse to show off some of the most fashionable offerings out there—our top pick is New York's very own Prabal Gurung's floral-print mask. The majority of shows will be taking place online on The Council of Fashion Designers of America’s innovative new platform, RUNWAY360.
The digital platform will host virtual showcases, giving each brand just half an hour to connect with audiences. Above all, RUNWAY360 will host events beyond the SS21 shows, and continue to be an ongoing business asset for brands to complement future physical events. The CDFA introduced the initiative to "allow brands the flexibility to show their collections in a variety of formats and at a time that works for them, and engages domestic and international press, consumers, and retailers, most of which are not currently able to travel to New York." The portal includes exciting new features like virtual reality capabilities, live streams, e-commerce extensions, shopping features, and social media integrations—in other words, a one-stop destination for both brands and consumers.
The SS21 schedule includes Tom Ford, perhaps the biggest name at the upcoming event. The label is known for its timeless design and use of opulent textures which spans across both womenswear and menswear collections. We should expect to see elegant blazers cut in bold silhouettes, slinky dresses crafted from silk, garments rendered in rich colours, and accessorised with structured bags and oversized sunglasses, designed for the glamorous working woman. Eckhaus Latta is another New York staple brand which is set to present. Perhaps best known for their use of deadstock fabrics and fishing lines, the sustainable label swaps traditional textiles in favour of deconstructed denim, daring cuts and unexpected textures within their collections. The disruptive label is known for challenging traditional gender roles with their eccentric designs, and their unconventional casting of non-models in its shows. One of the most exciting bands on the lineup is none other than Kim Shui. Born in the United States, raised in Italy, and of Chinese heritage, Shui celebrates her multicultural background through her designs, subverting traditional Chinese prints and silhouettes like the qipao, with contemporary touches. The designer playfully renders garments with thigh-grazing hems, lace-up bodices, and flirty cut-outs, all intended to accentuate the female body. Although she first debuted at NYFW in 2016, Shui was named a designer to watch on Forbes 30 Under 30 list just last year and has recently gained significant attention on Instagram, from the roster of stylish individuals spotted modelling her designs.
Even with a set schedule, we will have to wait and see how each brand will utilize the platform. If one thing is for certain, it’s that the pandemic has certainly challenged organisers and designers alike to adapt to a new format amid an ever-changing climate. For a city as busy and jam-packed as New York, we’re intrigued to see how a digital Fashion Week is going to play out.