Here’s a very opinionated guide for what to watch, where to watch it, where to buy it and what the heck is going on.
What to Watch and When
Sept. 14 to Oct. 6
This is a season like no other. If the last set of digital shows/music videos/perfume ads/lookbooks, in July, was a kind of bookmark — a place holder for an industry during a pandemic — it has dawned on all of us that rather than an interregnum, this may be the normal, at least for the foreseeable future.
Now the whole idea of fashion is starting to be questioned: What is a trend when we all exist in our isolated bubbles? Who needs so many new clothes? Who needs professional or dress-up outfits at all when offices are remote and events on hold? What is the point?
It’s on designers to provide an answer; to, in effect, justify their existence, to help us understand how we are going to express are selves in the future. These shows are how they are going to do it. The stakes have never been higher — and not just because a bunch of them will actually be live. As Jerry Seinfeld wrote of New York, “Real, live, inspiring human energy exists when we coagulate together.” The same is true of fashion shows.
New York Fashion Week
Sept. 13 to 17
When the Council of Fashion Designers of America released its official schedule for NYFW, it was littered with a single phrase: “digital activation.” (Thankfully, unlike earlier this summer, no one seems to be using the word “phygital.”) In most cases, this means a video, lookbook or a hybrid of the two, all of which will live on the CFDA’s new online platform, Runway360, IMG’s website, nyfw.com, and/or the designers’ social channels.
Because of this, there’s a sense that the playing field has been somewhat leveled between big names — however few they might be — and young designers. (Steven Kolb, the CFDA chief executive, said that 15 new American brands are on the schedule.) Everyone is showing in the same accessible place, with just a couple of outliers hosting events.
While details of the many “activations” aren’t public yet, several designers are using this moment to get more personal, with lookbooks photographed by and starring their friends (as in Sandy Liang’s case) or films about a designer’s cultural heritage (like an “art movie” from Bevza, the minimalist label from Kyiv, Ukraine). Released from traditional formats, brands can afford to be experimental. But in this unusual year, will that translate to more exposure?
Sunday, Sept. 13: Jason Wu will open NYFW at 5 p.m. with a runway show on the rooftop of Spring Studios. With a socially distant audience not exceeding 30 people, he’s one of just a handful of New York designers planning physical events this season. But don’t expect to see any of Mr. Wu’s signature red carpet dresses. He’ll be showing his contemporary line.
At 7:30 p.m., Harlem’s Fashion Row will host an online gala, honoring the Teen Vogue editor Lindsay Peoples Wagner, the British Vogue editor Edward Enninful, the publicist Nate Hinton and the Pyer Moss founder Kerby Jean Raymond (whose design award will be presented by Tracee Ellis Ross). Three designers — Kimberly Goldson, Rich Fresh and Kristian Loren — will then present collections.
Monday, Sept. 14: Let the digital activations begin; there are more than a dozen scheduled today. The biggest name, Carolina Herrera, will release a film at 10 a.m. It will not feature a new collection but rather a conversation between Mrs. Herrera and the label’s creative director Wes Gordon. Other designers with undisclosed digital plans include Marchesa (9 a.m.) and Collina Strada (1 p.m.) — a label that, in the Before Times, themed its colorful shows around environmental consciousness.
Ending the day is Imitation of Christ, the extremely aughts fashion/conceptual art collective. The label returned from a seven-year hiatus earlier this summer for a political protest show in Los Angeles, with three young artists acting as the new creative directors. At 9 p.m., they’ll go live with a “guerrilla-style screening” in New York and Los Angeles.
Tuesday, Sept. 15: New York Men’s Day will take place. Last season Aaron Potts, the Detroit-born Brooklynite proved himself a designer to watch with a “transeasonal, gender fluid” and, more radically, transgenerational collection that almost suffered from a surfeit of ideas. Mr. Potts (or apotts, as his label is known) appears as part of the daylong Runway360 roster that this season has brought the influential, if sometimes uncommercial, independent New York Men’s Day under the CFDA production umbrella.
Also showing are regulars like David Hart (won’t some label give this talented guy a gig as creative director?) and Timo Weiland, alongside newcomers to the local landscape like Future Lovers of Tomorrow, Teddy Vonranson and Wataru Tominaga, the Japanese designer whose boxy skate boy silhouettes and trippy pixilated patterns (think explosion in the gift wrap department at the stationery superstore Itoya) should revitalize retinas rendered numb by a steady stream of video presentations and designer lookbooks.
In real-life fashion event news, Rebecca Minkoff will take over the Spring Studios rooftop at 5 p.m. for a collection presentation — which will be streamed on nyfw.com at noon on Wednesday. Otherwise, expect more digital presentations from fashion week regulars including Anna Sui (9:30 a.m.), Badgley Mischka (10 a.m.) Naeem Khan (11 a.m.) and, later on, Chromat (4 p.m.).
Wednesday, Sept. 16: It’s the last full day of NYFW. Do you feel digitally activated yet? A live Eckhaus Latta presentation begins at 6 p.m., followed by Tom Ford, the CFDA chairman, who showed in Los Angeles instead of New York last season, and whose plans for this season include — you guessed it — uploading imagery to Runway360 at 7 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 17: At 2 p.m., Christian Siriano will stage an outdoor runway show in Connecticut, closing out New York Fashion Week (or … Tristate Fashion Week?).
Throughout the week, there will also be talks streamed on IMG’s nyfw.com with designers like Proenza Schouler (Monday) and a town hall with the newly formed Black in Fashion Council (Thursday). IMG has also partnered with Fashion Our Future 2020, a voting registration campaign, to host virtual programming and merch drops (including from Virgil Abloh) during NYFW.
Some New York designers are planning their digital presentations slightly off-calendar. On Sept. 22, Coach will release photos of its spring collection — mixed with vintage and archival Coach wear — taken by Juergen Teller.
Missing: There are so many! But to name a few: Marc Jacobs, Oscar de la Renta, Prabal Gurung, Gabriela Hearst (she’s going to Paris — at some point) and Michael Kors, who plans to reduce his show collections to a mere two a year (men’s and woman’s combined), which he will unveil on a calendar more akin to the old New York Fashion Week. You know, the way it was before 1998, when it came after the European shows, till Helmut Lang got sick of everyone saying New York designers were copying the Europeans and jumped the queue to early September.
According to an announcement, the spring/summer 2021 Michael Kors Collection “will be presented sometime between mid-October and mid-November 2020, with the format of the presentation still currently under exploration.” The fall-winter collection will take place “sometime between mid-March and mid-April.”
Vague enough for you? The idea is to shrink the time between seeing and shopping, though retailers will get an early viewing.
London Fashion Week
Sept. 17 to 22
London Fashion Week will be a sedate mix of digital presentations, one-on-one appointments and socially distanced shows. According to the British Fashion Council, there will be 50 digital-only activations, 21 physical and digital presentations, and 10 physical shows or events.
That makes for more IRL interactions than are on the New York schedule, but far fewer than are planned for the heavyweight fashion weeks in Milan and Paris. The online home of all London Fashion Week content can still be found here.
An experiment with a digital-only format in June’s fashion week met with a mixed reception. The BFC is hoping that this season’s version of the event will cast a bigger and better spotlight back on Britain’s best designers at a time when they need it more than ever.
Thursday, Sept. 17: Burberry is usually the top of the bill at London Fashion Week with a runway show toward the end of the event. This season it will act as a curtain-raiser, kicking things off with a digital-only livestream show, held outdoors with no guests and called “Burberry in Nature.”
Friday, Sept. 18: London labels with physical presentations include Bethany Williams, winner of the men’s wear emerging talent prize at the 2019 British Fashion Awards, Halpern and Margaret Howell, a stalwart of the British scene known for her precisely tailored utilitarian wear who will be celebrating 50 years in the fashion business. Vivienne Westwood, another industry veteran, will show her latest designs via a film, as will two hotly watched up-and-comers, Matty Bovan and Edward Crutchley.
Saturday, Sept. 19: London’s dress doyennes take the reins on Saturday. Molly Goddard will host a salon show, while Simone Rocha will have a series of invitation-only appointments for editors and buyers. Online highlights include videos from Richard Malone, Marques Almeida and the fashion industry’s master milliner, Stephen Jones.
Sunday, Sept. 20: Emilia Wickstead, the New Zealand-born designer favored by the Duchess of Cambridge, will have appointments on Sunday, and Victoria Beckham has confirmed that she will be doing a salon show. At 6:30 p.m., Fashion East will round out the weekend with a film — worth a watch given that this talent incubator previously nurtured fledgling labels like JW Anderson, Gareth Pugh and Roksanda.
Monday, Sept. 21: Roksanda will be hosting physical appointments, as will Christopher Kane, Osman Yousefzada and Supriya Lele, with accompanying digital content staggered throughout the day. JW Anderson, one of the week’s biggest stars, is the closing draw of the day with an online film.
Tuesday, Sept. 22: Two to watch, Charlotte Knowles and Bianca Saunders, will show films on the last day of London Fashion Week. Erdem, known for its signature party dresses and decadent prints, will be having appointments. (An accompanying film will have gone live on Monday.) And Richard Quinn, who made his name when Queen Elizabeth II sat on the front row of a 2018 show, closes the London proceedings with a film at 2:45 p.m.
After that? On to Milan.
Milan Men’s & Women’s Fashion Week
Sept. 23 to 28
Now we get to the first of the two fashion week cities really, really committed to holding physical shows, complete with guests — though they are moving forward with the whole dual gender, men’s wear and women’s wear on the catwalk together idea. (It’s about time.)
As for the drive to show live, nerve-racking though it may be given the potential for spreading the virus, you can understand it: Fashion is a core Italian industry, embedded in both the country’s economy, which is built not just on big global brands but on factories and hundreds of small artisans who manufacture products for designers around the world, and its identity. And there is no moment quite as quintessentially fashion as the show.
Even back in the old days of July, a few names (hello, Dolce & Gabbana) started to dip their Roman sandal-shod feet in live experiences. At the time the reaction was: Shock! Horror! How can you? But with proper procedures followed, no disasters ensued. Now more are following. Not everyone, to be sure — the first four days are predominantly physical shows; the last two, mostly digital. And Armani is hedging his bets and holding live shows, but with no audience. Here’s what to watch.
Wednesday, Sept. 23: Missoni will kick things off with a digital presentation, but the first Big Live Show will be Fendi, at 3 p.m. No big surprise, since the brand is owned by LVMH, a.k.a. the Largest Luxury Group in the World, and the conglomerate that has been most vocal about its support of the traditional system. Also going live: Alberta Ferretti (at 5 p.m.) and Dolce & Gabbana, of course, at 6 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 24: MaxMara will start the day, as it usually did during that period formerly known as MFW, at 9:30 a.m. Emporio Armani will be at 11:30, and Etro at 6 p.m., but in between will be the single biggest draw of the week — and the one show everyone will be talking about: Prada at 2 p.m. The first collection by the creative directors Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons, two of fashion’s most introspective thinkers, it will either give substance to the argument that creativity triumphs over all or prove that old saw about too many cooks. Either way, it’s going to be a Moment.
Friday, Sept. 25: Boss is back in Milan after a few quiet season in New York and showing at 2 p.m., followed immediately by Tod’s at 3 p.m. and Marni at 4 p.m. Francesco Risso, Marni’s creative director, has consistently proven himself to be one of the most interesting new-gen names in the city, and one of the few willing to use his work to grapple with contemporary issues (even if he also accompanies his shows with notes that are part prose poem, part Dada, and almost impossible to decipher).
Last season he wore a bunny rabbit mask to take his bow and had his models emerge from a blob-like silver dome. One can only imagine what he will do with the current situation. While we are pondering the answer, note that Versace will show at 6 p.m. For her last digital reveal, Donatella offered some models shimmying to a new single performed by the British rapper AJ Tracey. Will she have a live soundtrack again? What does athVersace look like? Is there such a thing? Keep these questions in mind.
Saturday, Sept. 26: It’s Armani day! As some may remember, the last in-person Armani show, back in March, was officially the first show altered by Covid-19 as it dawned on the world that the virus was about to go global. Back then, Mr. Armani told his guests to stay home (or in their hotels) and livestreamed his show from an empty theater, with a finale designed as an ode to China. We have now come full circle. To see what that looks like, tune in at 9 p.m.
And for a curtain-raiser, don’t forget Tomo Koizumi x Pucci, a digital reveal of the Japanese designer’s one-season-only vision for the brand that print built, and Ferragamo, at 7 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 27: For one-time only, Valentino, normally a Paris name, is bringing its combined men’s and women’s show to Milan. Jacopo Venturini, the chief executive, called it an “ethical” decision made to protect employees and support the Italian fashion system. Now the question is: Will a change in metropolis change what we see?
Missing: the two big names not going live as part of the schedule are Gucci, which is planning a live show — maybe? probably — but on its own schedule, when it makes sense for the brand, probably later in the fall, and Bottega Veneta, where Daniel Lee is thinking digital.
Paris Fashion Week
Sept. 29 to Oct. 6
The organizing body of Paris Fashion Week is still insisting that, as with Milan, the shows will go on, literally, even as travel advisories change by the day. The schedule is a full eight days (!) with most of the big French guns planning physical shows and everyone else engaging in a variety of creative programming.
Dior kicks it all off, live and in person, on Sept. 29 in its usual 2:30 slot, with Balmain at 8 p.m. on the 30th. (How will Olivier Rousteing follow up his couture-time concert/tour through the archives on a boat in the Seine? Watch and see!) Hermès is on the Oct. 3 at 3 p.m., live again, and the 6th — the final day and a doozy — will have both Chanel, live at 10:30 a.m., and Louis Vuitton, live at 4:30. In between are Miu Miu at 2:30 and Maison Margiela at 3:30.
Givenchy, where Matthew Williams was to have the most anticipated debut of the week, has decided to postpone that big unveil until 2021, when (hopefully) it can actually be big — and live, and in front of a lot of people — and will instead offer a sort of prelude/peekaboo into a few looks at 8 p.m. on Oct. 4.
Yet Paris is also the city where some of the most interesting clothes come from some of the more independent, and traveling, names, and in those cases, there is less clarity. Thom Browne, for example, one of the great itinerant showmen of the city, is sticking with digital; so is Altuzarra, and so is Dries Van Noten.
Marine Serre and Thebe Magugu, two of the hottest young names, are on the schedule for the Sept. 26 at 10:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m., while Kenneth Ize on Oct. 1 at 10 a.m., but their plans are a mystery. Which maybe makes it even more important to watch. Also worth checking out: Wales Bonner and Gabriela Hearst, each making their Paris Fashion Week debuts — in some form, anyway — the first on Sept. 28 at 5:30 p.m., and the second on Oct. 4 at 1 p.m.
Missing: Comme des Garçons and its brands, Junya Watanabe and Noir Kei Ninomiya, all of which are responsible for the more boundary-pushing thought-provoking work normally shown during fashion week — you know, the ones that question the very concept of “dress” — will be staying home in Tokyo, and holding smaller presentations there in October. Also off the schedule: the polarizing Celine, where Hedi Slimane has remained mum about his plans since the start of the pandemic.
Off-White by Virgil Abloh will no longer be part of Paris Fashion Week but will instead introduce its next collection, for spring 2021, in stores in February, said New Guards Group, which owns the license for the brand. Thereafter, the company said, “the collections will be organized by monthly installments and will satisfy any commercial need, leaving Virgil Abloh all the creative space he needs.”
And Saint Laurent, led by Anthony Vaccarello, plans to “take control of its pace and reshape its schedule,” at least through the rest of 2020. (It says it will be back on the official Paris schedule in 2021.) What does that actually mean? Who knows! Saint Laurent hasn’t been any more specific than to write that it will “launch its collections following a plan conceived with an up-to-date perspective, driven by creativity.” Well, OK then.
And for a recap of what happened in July:
The Paris Haute Couture Shows, Milan Digital Fashion Week, London Fashion Week
These shows took place in early July, entirely digitally, and you can watch them all in one handy place right here.
Illustration by The New York Times; Shutterstock