Friday, February 7, 2014

First Day of School, AKA New York Fashion Week Day Two

outside Peter Som
"Fashion Week just ain't what it used to be." Or at least that is the dominant sentiment among people who attend. Seasoned street style photographers like Tommy Ton and Phil Oh are inclined to wax a little nostalgic about the old days — some five, six years back — when the sidewalks outside the runway shows were virtually empty, when a photographer could chat up an editor like they were old college chums. Journalists love to complain about the circus fashion week has become, as if once, not so long ago, fashion week were a dull, lifeless convention full of "serious" business people, who couldn't care less about how they looked and just wanted to get on with it and review some shows already.  

outside Jason Wu
I can't speak to the old days of fashion week. I've only been to three seasons. But I can tell you that it hasn't changed all that much in the relatively short amount of time that I have attended. It was a spectacle then, and it is a spectacle now. But a predictable spectacle, full of familiar faces. Returning to fashion week today was like returning to school after summer break. I saw all the old gang, many of whom I have gotten to know over the last year. There was lots of hugging and fist bumping and "hey man"ing. Felt just like last fall, only substantially colder. It felt so much like last fall, in fact, that my brain had a hard time comprehending that any real time had passed since then.
outside jason wu
Not that that's a bad thing. It was nice seeing people I've come to know these last thirteen months. Going through grueling days of shooting on the streets of New York makes you feel like you've been through something with these people, like you have something in common besides taking pictures of models, editors, and bloggers outside runway shows together. And maybe we do. Let's just say I was not the only dude out there dressed all in black, with a big beard and a retro haircut.   
But there were a few things that seemed a bit different today. I'll have to see if the next few days bear the observations out. For one, I noticed far more people collecting their subjects' information and asking them to sign photo releases than before. For another, it seemed that a significantly greater percentage of the people out there were professional or freelance photographers, or at least shooting for magazines and commercial websites in some official capacity. In part, both phenomena are a result of so many of the photographers out there professionalizing over the last year, i.e., working in a more formal capacity for commercial magazines and websites. Not that they all get paid to do so. Most magazines can get photos for free from eager bloggers willing to get their names out there. Others will pay for big name street style photographers, but only so much. As I overheard one relatively big name street style photographer say today, street style has a become a rich kid's game. You can't go into it for the money. You'll likely never earn back what you spend on your camera. A few make it big. Most don't. But that doesn't stop people from trying, like this guy, in the panda mask.

A few weeks back I mentioned that IMG, the company who organizes Mercedes Benz New York Fashion Week, decided to invite 20 percent fewer people to runway events, excluding many bloggers, in an effort to calm the chaos that fashion week had become. So did it work? Is the scene at fashion week less showy and pretentious, less swarming with photographers chasing peacocks in Proenza Schouler? No, it's pretty much the same in that way. But common sentiment among the photographers is that the editors, buyers, and other industry insiders are now conspicuously dressing down, perhaps to demonstrate that their brands are secure enough that they don't need to parade their stuff before the crowd of camera-wielding bloggers. As for the bloggers attending the shows, they appear as numerous as ever, and are just as dressed up. 

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