Has Fashion Week Lost Its PR Luster?

Today is the first day of New York Fashion Week, which has some asking the question: has the event grown too big for its own size 2 capri pants?

It’s a serious query, because anyone with fashion clients knows it’s the industry’s biggest event. This year’s affair, however, has already been plagued with problems: the fact that it falls during High Holy Days forces Jewish designers and employees to “choose between the shul and the runway“, and a lawsuit filed over the fact that its 2010 move to Lincoln Center restricts access to that (public) park will almost certainly force the whole undertaking to move in the near future.

For a publicist, however, the issue is this: is Fashion Week still the best promo forum for new collections and designers? How can editorial voices be heard when Everybody Who’s Anybody is there?

This week The New York Times quoted various industry vets complaining about the event and claiming that it has grown too big for a single brand or collection to stand out. The implication? Now that everyone covers Fashion Week, the public doesn’t care—and related media mentions grow less valuable by the year.

While the current event’s tent-style setup is cheap, it resembles “a fashion factory” that reduces publicists’ ability to strategize. Some now plan to transition to smaller shows with fewer media invites, while others have chosen to opt out altogether, arguing that digital retail and a public empowered to sort through designs at a whim mean that it no longer matters where new designs are revealed and displayed.

Tamara Mellon, former CCO of Jimmy Choo, has a unique strategy: to launch her new “lifestyle” brand, she chose to ignore Fashion Week events altogether in favor of a “buy now, wear now” strategy. In explaining her approach to The Financial Times, she said:

“I don’t know any woman who will care that we are not part of the fashion schedule.”

She’s getting plenty of publicity anyway thanks to her pedigree and her unusual angle. Does this mean Fashion Week simply doesn’t have the same value to PR pros that it once did?

@PatrickCoffee patrick.coffee@adweek.com Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.