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3 Things We Learned From NYFW

We’re not a fashion blog, but there was more than just couture on display during last week’s Spring 2014 New York Fashion Week. In order to make a statement, designers appealed to much more than the runway shows, providing true experiences to industry insiders and allowing onlookers to engage in the action via social media and interactive online channels. And for some, events on the runways highlighted backwards trends of the fashion industry in terms of body diversity and race that have much larger implications. We rounded up the three most powerful themes from NYFW to give you a snapshot of what went down and how that translates to real consumers for the year to come.
1. Street Style Trumps Runway Fashion?
Street style is becoming the spotlight of fashion week and changing focus from the runway to the roadway. Coverage of street style has been as exhaustive as runway photos this year, featured on in two parts, and being watched as closely as the collections for new trends and style steals. The appeal for street style is its accessibility and lack of exclusivity—they are looks that can be replicated right now, and young consumers are paying attention. Though street style stars are often celebrities and fashion insiders, there is the chance that anyone can be photographed, heightening the awareness and the penchant for extremely well curated looks. Tommy Ton, a notorious fashion street photographer of the blog Jak & Jil, documented street style in the same vein as runway models this year, showing as many photos from behind-the-scenes as ones out in the city. Bloggers are now dictating what trends hit it big with consumers, influencing via Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, and their own sites, allowing designers who team up with street style photographers and online celebrities to have exclusive access to their fan base as opposed to the other way around.
2. It’s All About The Experience
Fashion week has undoubtedly transitioned from a haute couture showcase of next season’s trends and design innovations to an all-encompassing visceral experience. Point blank: it’s not just about the clothes. This year’s most talked about shows took the runway experience to another level. Opening Ceremony’s debut at NYFW was a whirlwind show as Porsches and Lamborghinis drove models into the industrial runway at Pier 25. If that wasn’t enough to solidify Opening Ceremony’s reputation in the cool-kid corner, they gave cronuts in the gift bags. Opening Ceremony managed to transition their trend-driven store aesthetic onto the runway by utilizing powerful props and creating an experience in every sense.
Another designer who kept at the height of innovation was Diane Von Furstenberg, who employed Google Glass as the ultimate accessory for her runway show. Models, front row gazers, street style bloggers, and even DVF herself sported Google Glass, testing out its capabilities and giving a new lens to fashion week coverage.
Both DVF and Opening Ceremony employed multiple mediums in which to showcase their collections and display the essence of their brand, allowing Millennials lacking exclusive entry to the shows to feel as if they were there from the coverage. By utilizing associations with luxury cars and Google Glass, both brands created an experience that ultimately balloons exposure and will be something to remember as the lights from fashion week fade.
3. Diversity Is Still a Problem 
For the first time in the history of fashion week, a complete show of plus-sized models sashayed down the runway. Eden Miller, who showed as a designer for The Fashion Law Institute, broke the mold of this week’s stick thin beauties to make a statement about America and the fashion industry. Although the CFDA has garnered a Health Initiative for fashion week that prompts designers to send a healthier body image down the runways, the commitment is voluntary and hasn’t gained a stronghold in the industry yet. “Straight size” for models remains a size 0-2 and the average size of today’s American woman is 12-14. Though street style has been embraced by the fashion industry, representing the street on the runway is far from a reality. And although racial diversity in the fashion world is also beginning to progress, fashion week still makes those looking from the outside in “feel like shit” about themselves, as one writer from Jezebel succinctly put it.
These issues at play in the high-end fashion world are equally important for mainstream brands and retailers. Abercrombie & Fitch, with stores in every day malls, is failing to reflect the every day consumer, and Millennials are showing signs that they won’t put up with it anymore. The store has been under fire for much of the past decade in lawsuits over their “Look Policy,” and sales are on the decline. Only 41% of teens who can fit into the brand’s clothes would be classified as “all-American,” their ideal consumer, and even then, only 9% of that group would be considered good-looking enough to wear A&F clothing. The fashion industry’s struggles with diversity— both body and ethnicity—are representative of the larger problem at hand: representing the world in an inauthentic way is no longer deemed acceptable, and young consumers especially will display their discontent with their wallets.