New York fashion week has a new catchphrase: “Ready to wear – ready to go.” The see-now-buy-now mantra that is revolutionising the industry started in London, with Burberry’s unilateral abolition of the traditional six-month wait between a catwalk show and clothes arriving in store. But it was inevitable that New York, a city where instant gratification and 24-hour delivery are a way of life, would step up and own it.
The designer Michael Kors has a talent for pithy enunciations of where fashion is at. (“Ultimately, rich and pretty is what women want,” he pronounced at the height of last decade’s pre-financial crash mania for status dresses and It bags.)
This season, he’s into instaglam. Seven key garments from the collection shown at New York fashion week on Wednesday, as well as two bag styles and two shoe styles, will be available to buy instantly. “Our customer doesn’t think in terms of seasons, anyway,” said Kors at a press conference before his catwalk show. “She just thinks about what works for her life.”
But Kors will as yet stop short of a full see-now-buy-now upending of the calendar, with the rest of these catwalk pieces still not arriving in store for five months. The designer said he wanted the immediately available pieces to be “like a trailer for a film. It can’t give away the whole plot, or you don’t go see the film.”
The Hollywood spin is classic Kors, but the reality is more prosaic. However keen Kors is to fulfil customer demand for immediate gratification, he cannot fully commit to the new business model until questions about how the system works for department store buyers and glossy magazines, whose schedules rely on a time delay between catwalk and retail, have been ironed out.
This catwalk show, staged in a glossy white studio high above Tribeca, hinted at an interesting possible side-effect of fashion’s changing timeframe. Designing clothes that would be hanging on rails in his boutique on the afternoon of the same day they were shown on the catwalk seemed to shift something in Kors’s mindset, so that the clothes, while never lacking the swish and polish that his customer loves, were noticeably more wearable. Shoes were walkable, with lower heels and wider toes than usual. Almost everything had sleeves.
Michael Kors dresses America’s wealthiest women in arctic fox and ostrich feathers, while steering a global fashion empire whose ubiquitous handbags for around the £250 mark have made him a billionaire. His formula is to take the on-trend look of the moment and give it a private-jet upgrade.
This season, that means trousers cropped to just above the ankle bone, worn with chunky-heeled loafers. The pussybow blouse, star piece of myriad recent nerd-chic catwalk collections, appeared here as an elegant silk shirt dress, which could have been taken from Jackie Kennedy’s wardrobe. The pleated skirt, a staple item of 2016, is scissored into vertical ribbons from hem to upper thigh, a style usually called a “carwash” skirt – but rebranded here, with classic Kors panache, as the more elegant “streamer skirt.”
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