Captivate // A Divisive Conclusion to Fashion Week

Marc Jacobs capped off another Fashion Week in New York City with a presentation that was just as divisive as it was eye-catching. In a stripped 67th Street Armory, two rows of metal folding chairs created a building-length single-row runway. No more clamoring for first row status. This year, everyone had a front row seat. There was no music to be heard, no lighting, and controversially, no cell phones. Indeed there was seemingly no "show" to be seen. Models walked silently down the pseudo-runway, the sounds of their foot steps echoing the cavernous space. Some have said, that it was only after the models exited the building and emerged onto a sidewalk in the city that the performance took place. A crowd of photographers and onlookers watched as one-by-one the models emerged onto the crowded New York streets. 

The show was, in his own words, a "considered" approach. “Every one of the creative decisions — from music to styling to accessories to shoes to bags to clothes to the girls, the diversity of the casting or the lack of diversity of the casting, everything — it’s all part of the experience,” Jacobs told WWD. It's obvious that Jacobs was forcing viewers to focus on what was on the runway and less on everything surrounding the catwalk, but in so doing he is sparking another conversation on what a "fashion show" is. WWD had this to say; "While Jacobs had said that he wanted to strip away elaborate production trappings — and that he hoped his guests would respect his wishes to put away their phones and enjoy the live-show experience — anyone expecting a lack of theatricality was dead wrong, and most likely, in short order, delighted."

The show was not without criticism, however. The New York Times described it as a, "downer" saying, "Mr. Jacobs brought New York Fashion Week to a close with a disconcertingly depressing if very well-merchandised ode to the documentary “Hip-Hop Evolution” and a moment in time when everything changed. (speaking of dress)." Even Vogue seemed intrigued by the lack of showmanship, saying, "There was no set, no music, no big hair and makeup statement, and no iPhone photography permitted. What gives?"

Jacobs took a page from the anti-fashion movement and did one better. He played with anti-experience; somehow managing to create the only show that has drawn significant headlines on the environment of the presentation. Certainly, this was not mis-timed industry commentary. Retailers and designers everywhere are focusing more and more on creating experiences in their stores, on their websites, and of course at their presentations. As the fashion industry finds its way in a digital marketplace - experiences are becoming more and more coveted. Business of Fashion ran an Op-Ed titled "Stage Experiences or Go Extinct" a razor sharp critique of the current value that retailers have placed on experiences in their stores. 

Perhaps Jacobs' show should serve as a reminder that fashion - on it's own - has merit. Obviously, the marketplace is changing dramatically and changing at a pace that we've never seen; but maybe, just maybe, this is the start of a new discussion where clothes, and the reasons we wear them, are the central theme.