Why A-Listers Are Over Fashion Week
New York Fashion Week is upon us. We’re actually already on day two.
But if you didn’t even realize it, you’re not alone. And it’s not just because NYC is currently buried under six inches of snow.
In fact, it might be because NYFW isn’t drawing mainstream stars the way it used to. Fashion brands are no longer shelling out big bucks to plant actors and singers in their front rows, so coverage of NYFW events in the mainstream, non-fashion press feels pretty light this year.
You might even say fashion and Hollywood are experiencing a major breakup right now.
A-list actors and singers who used to dot Fashion Week’s front rows are stopping their appearances, as the New York Times pointed out this week.
See, before the 90s, NYFW was a trade show for, you know, the actual fashion industry. There wasn’t much point for celebrities to attend. Celebrities like to be the center of attention, after all, and they don’t want to play second fiddle to clothes or — worse still — models.
But then, in the late 90s, after watching the boom of the supermodels, celebs and fashion brands realized they could join forces to elevate each other. Mary J. Blige and Janet Jackson popped up at Baby Phat, a label led by model-turned-designer-turned-reality-star Kimora Lee Simmons. Beyoncé, J. Lo, Anne Hathaway, Madonna — everyone started to pop up front-row. Even fashion non-entities like Mandy Moore (no offense, bb) got invites to the biggest shows. Click here for an epic TBT slideshow.
The crossover between fashion and Hollywood only got more massive. Victoria Beckham, the Olsen twins, Rihanna, and Kanye West not only started their own high-fashion lines, but actually succeeded and got respect from the fashion industry. And movies like “Zoolander” and “The Devil Wears Prada” showed us the fashion world could dabble in Hollywood, too.
But the backlash has begun. Remember what I said earlier about celebs not wanting to be upstaged by clothes? Yeah, that started to happen, and there are no signs that it’ll slow down.
It started with red carpet “what are you wearing?” culture, which has absolutely snowballed in the past 20 years, thanks in large part to the late, great Joan Rivers.
Red carpet coverage used to be a novelty. But now, many actresses seem to think it’s gotten out of hand. There’s even a celeb-led movement — #askhermore — to tear down the emphasis on fashion at awards shows. Actresses and singers want to talk about their acting roles and new albums, which they feel are more interesting than fashion and beauty. As a result, awards show Twitter is now full not only of people gushing over gowns, but also their more woke counterparts whining about how condescending they find fashion interviews to be.
And it looks like the fashion fatigue we’ve seen creeping into red carpet coverage is extending to Fashion Week itself. Between the parties, events, and fashion shows, there are so many opportunities to see and be seen during NYFW that it’s almost cooler not to go.
There’s also a shift in how NYFW is being covered. Street style has gone from the hottest thing to kind of tragic. Gone are the days of swanning around in your most ridiculous outfit outside the Met hoping someone will snap you for a street style blog. For the past couple of seasons, looking photo-ready outside a fashion show if you’re anyone less than Bryanboy, Anna Dello Russo, or Giovanna Battaglia has begun to reek of desperation.
Plus, Instagram has turned life into a daily fashion show for anyone with a following, so street style blogs are pretty much irrelevant. Even if you’re a total fashion nerd, when’s the last time you clicked on a street style slideshow? You don’t need to be invited to a fashion show to have your style noticed anymore. You just need to be good at Instagram.
The events and hoopla surrounding NYFW have grown to a point where they’re no longer special, they’re just tiring. And for celebrities, they’re work. It’s not just the cool factor that now keeps the famous from attending. Celebs have bills to pay, and the major cash-outs they used to get for appearing front-row have largely dried up. Celebs like Angelina Jolie could command up to $1 million for a single “pay-for-pose” show appearance, the Times says. Even lower-level celebs could get $25,000 to $100,000.
But now, that cash is spread out among less expensive stars and social media influencers — and no celeb who takes herself seriously as an artiste wants to be photographed next to an Instagram star. Designers might get more bang for their buck placing a blogger with a massive following in their front row, rather than coughing up their entire budget for an A-lister whose photo will show up in a magazine with no guarantee of the brand’s name in the caption.
It’s also becoming a power move for bigger brands to show their collections outside the parameters of the Fashion Week calendar. Tommy Hilfiger and Gigi Hadid’s latest collection showed in Venice Beach, CA, the day before NYFW started.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. How could the fashion-celeb connection be deteriorating when models like Kendall Jenner and Gigi and Bella Hadid are merging the celeb and fashion worlds like never before?
Actually, what we’re seeing now is a replay of what went on in the early 90s when grunge was just starting to pop off. During that time period, for whatever reason, actresses didn’t want to play the celeb game. The 80s gave them a fashion hangover, and they wanted to be taken seriously for their art. This opened the door for the OG supermodels, like Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, and Linda Evangelista, to become household names while actresses focused on, you know, making movies.
Soon, the aforementioned traditional celebs started popping up at shows. They saw the supermodels using fashion to become world-famous, and figured they could boost their profile by attending NYFW too. And now, about 20 years later, they’re over it.
We’re seeing something similar to what happened in the early 90s happen now. Our new tastemakers are not actresses, but model-slash-somethings — Kendall, Gigi, Hailey Baldwin, Zoe Kravitz, Willow Smith. They’re not be Hollywood A-listers in the traditional sense, because they’re predominantly known for their lifestyle and fashion sense, maybe with a showbizzy talent or skill thrown in on the side. But they probably have more influence on what people are buying right now than, say, a critically acclaimed actress like Jennifer Lawrence or Grammy-winning singer like Lady Gaga. These new girls are basically cool for a living, and the fashion world is all about it.
Also, once you get big as a model, you don’t really need to hustle at NYFW anymore. Pay attention to how many NYFW shows Kendall and the Hadids, who are all at the top of their game, walk this season. I bet it won’t be many. Because as a model, once you hit a certain level, you don’t have to do a million runway shows anymore. Fashion shows actually don’t pay much to models.
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That’s why it’s more lucrative for Gigi to co-design a line with Tommy Hilfiger and skip every other NYFW presentation than it would be for her to walk in every single one of the important shows, no matter how much cooler than Tommy they might be.
The bottom line is this: the whole point of Fashion Week is to sell clothes. Gigi’s collab with Tommy Hilfiger has resulted in “tens of millions in sales” and a 900% increase in ecommerce for the brand, according to the Times. That’s really what it’s all about, and if paying an actress to sit front-row doesn’t move the needle, what’s the point?
So if A-listers aren’t showing up at shows but clothes are still selling thanks to models and influencers, it doesn’t mean NYFW is over. It just means fashion is asserting itself as an industry that can command attention with its own stars. If anything, it might point to the growing irrelevance of Hollywood in the age of influencer culture. There will always be crossover stars like Rihanna and Kanye, but fashion is now holding its own as a type of entertainment.
And if NYFW feels a tiny bit irrelevant, that’s probably okay — fashion has become a year round conversation topic on its own, thanks to all of the celebrity hoopla surrounding Fashion Week over the past 20 years or so. So bye bye, actresses and singers. Your work in the fashion world is pretty much done.