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Q You have written that you regularly attend Fashion Week in New York. What is it like and is it any different these days from the way it used to be?

A Fashion Week has changed dramatically from what it used to be. Starting in 1943, when it was called "Press Week," the audience was made up of reporters, buyers from clothing stores across the country, and wealthy customers who followed their favorite designers by attending their shows. No matter how badly someone may have wanted to attend the fashion shows, it was not possible to buy a ticket. There was no such thing; either you were invited, or you weren't. Period.

Today, nothing could be farther from the truth.

Fashion Week, which happens twice a year in New York, is that time when the clothing industry previews what is going to be seen next season. The most-recent presentation showed clothes for Spring/Summer '19. Top designers as well as emerging new designers presented their forthcoming collections in a mix of glamorous (and very loud) runway shows as well as formal staged/posed presentations.

In the early days, the shows used to be scattered all over Manhattan; they occurred in designers' showrooms and in various larger venues. Then, the legendary Eleanor Lambert (founder of the International Best Dressed List), revamped the whole confusing array of presentations in 1993 into a centralized weeklong series of fashion shows held in a single location, known as "the tents" in Bryant Park, creating "7th on Sixth," which later became New York Fashion Week.

When the event grew too large to be accommodated in the park, it expanded and moved to Lincoln Center. Fern Mallis took over and for years kept things running smoothly in an organized system. Everyone knew what the schedule was and where each show would be held. That still did not mean that if you were a press person, you would automatically be invited to the most prestigious designers' shows, but at least you knew whom to contact to request an invitation.

In recent years, the phenomenon of Fashion Week has become an even more sought-after event, but now, it has returned to its early state of total disorganization. There is no centralized umbrella group that runs it; the shows are held all over the map. And since the TV show Project Runway and the movie The Devil Wears Prada both featured it so prominently, a lot more people want to attend.

Of course, the industry has found a way to accommodate them ... and to make a huge amount of money while doing so. They have turned the shows into a major money-making enterprise: insider VIP entertainment for sale.

Just like attending a Broadway show, you can now buy an expensive ticket to many of the shows. As examples, tickets for a set of shows held at Spring Studios in Tribeca sell for the astronomical price of $1,999. Tickets at a venue called Industria in the West Village cost $799. Both of these advertise that their ticket package includes some of the perks that used to be free in the Bryant Park tents: access to their lounge, complimentary dry hair styling, makeup touch ups, "goodie" gift bags, and more. But what surprised me was the note: "Every package comes with a guaranteed seat to a show. Due to the nature of seating, specific shows cannot be guaranteed. Best effort will be made to accommodate your preferred show request."

That certainly sounds like you might pay a fortune and not even be guaranteed a seat to your favorite show. Another series of shows, Fashion Style S/S '19, held in the Manhattan Center, sold tickets for $125 for each block of three different designers' shows. There were three designers' shows to a set, three sets a day, and three days of shows. Of the shows I attended, my two favorite designers were David Tupaz and Adrian Alicia. I loved their dramatic use of color and their innovative day-to-evening clothes.

To go one step farther than merely selling show tickets as a money-making device, I also found this online: "Runway Buy -- Buy direct from the runway. Sign up using our app and watch a live fashion show on your smart device, then scan and buy the pieces you love." So now, some designers will sell you their styles immediately, and you no longer have to wait until next spring when they arrive in stores.

As to the content of the shows I saw, here are a few of my observations.

• Whereas in the past few years, I have complained about too much black and not enough color, this season was so wildly and exuberantly colorful as to almost be difficult to wear. Where would they be appropriate?

• Even though the clothes were for hot weather and resort wear, I found too much that was overly-sheer and far too much near-nudity. Where would they be appropriate?

• A lot of individual styles were terrific looking, but the over-the-top way that many of them were illogically combined and accessorized made little sense. Of course, "too much" has always been part of the essence of Fashion Week, but still one wonders: Where would they be appropriate?

In other words: Fashion Week remains a theatrical spectacle and spectacular fun, but Fashion Week and reality have very little in common.

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High Profile on 09/16/2018

Print Headline: Changing Fashion Week in disarray, over the top

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