Last season, Tom Ford put on an intimate show of his first-ever namesake women's collection for a select group of around 100 editors, sending the message that if you were someone in fashion, you were there. Somewhat puzzlingly, those somebodies also included a little girl, seated in the front row, who can be seen in Ford's video of the show — released in a likewise very controlled way. This was not a blogger free-for-all, no Tavis, no Bryan Boys, the idea being to prevent anything about the show from leaking onto the Internet (though some did, inevitably, including camera phone snaps of Beyoncé, along with some other names in the model cast) before Ford wanted the material to be there. Today the Times credits Ford with turning other designers onto the idea of smaller, more exclusive shows.
Publicist Paul Wilmot tells reporter Ruth la Ferla that Ford "shook up the industry" and "if somebody says they weren’t influenced, that would be a lie." And some designers are having smaller shows. Isaac Mizrahi has moved his show to Exit Art, a modest venue, where he hopes the clothes and not the theatrics he's put on in past shows will be the focal point. Altuzarra is still showing at MAC & Milk this season but has cut the guest list by one third. “Why would you want to spend hundreds of thousands on a show when everybody’s on their BlackBerry and the clothes seem secondary?” his marketing and PR director wonders. To that we might say that all those people with their phones out are paying attention but probably also trying to tweet about the collection (or trying to — the poor reception at MAC & Milk has made this somewhat difficult the past two seasons).
Publicists somewhat credit Ford for this supposed shift, too:
“Intimate is a word that’s definitely in the air,” said Ed Filipowski, a president at KCD, the public relations and event-production powerhouse with a client roster that includes Marc Jacobs, Anna Sui and Alexander Wang.
James LaForce, a fashion publicist, has encountered designers who are questioning the validity of a blockbuster show. “I’ve heard plenty of people saying, ‘Let’s do a Tom Ford kind of thing,’ ” he said. “They are asking themselves, ‘Is more really more, or is more watering down our influence?’ ”
But the Times also mentions the season Marc Jacobs downsized his guest list from 1,400 to 500 — which predated Ford's show and was an attempt to save money and not look obnoxiously flashy at the height of the recession. And the economy remains that thing that lingers over fashion like an invisible elephant. Times still feel cautious: Derek Lam is the latest in the slew of high-fashion designers to do lower-priced one-off lines, with the racks that held Lanvin's H&M collection barely cooled from that frenzy. Recent hirings, firings, and merchandise changes at Barneys suggest the financially plagued retailer is taking a more commercial direction. And besides, L'Wren Scott has always put on shows intimate enough so that she can serve guests lunch while they watch the fashion.
Nicole Miller is also putting on a smaller show, party because, she says, "a small show is just chicer." And still, Filipowski from KCD contends, "We’re not seeing big changes in the size of the shows." These things, like fashion, will change from season to season, as designers find ways to make their work feel fresh. But most designers — and most of their publicists — probably don't want to come out and say that they can't afford or don't want to spend the money on a big show for fall 2011.
And another thing: Children always wind up on the front rows, too.