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Helmut Lang and Ralph Lauren kick off New York Fashion Week

A model presents an outfit by Coach during New York Fashion Week – Copyright AFP ANGELA WEISS

Andréa BAMBINO

Amid sweltering heat and jitters over the Hollywood strike, New York kicked off its Spring-Summer 2024 Fashion Week on Friday, with heavyweights Ralph Lauren and Helmut Lang returning to the industry’s flagship event with fresh ideas.

American luxury brand Coach unveiled its collection of sensual translucent dresses at the New York Public Library in Manhattan on Thursday, but the event was briefly disrupted by animal rights activists.

As Vogue editor Anna Wintour and Jennifer Lopez watched the show, two female protesters from the animal rights group PETA — one covered in body paint that mimicked animal flaying and another holding a poster that read “Coach: Leather Kills” — joined the models on the runway before security led them away.

At another unofficial kick-off event on Wednesday, featuring Naomi Campbell, Doja Cat, Naomi Osaka and Gigi Hadid, the iconic lingerie label Victoria’s Secret teased a film meant to showcase the brand’s new and more inclusive identity after it was criticized for designing garments that objectify women.

The film, entitled “The Victoria’s Secret World Tour,” to be released on Amazon Prime at the end of September, highlights the work of creators and artists from Lagos, London, Bogota and Tokyo.

– Yellow taxi –

This year, New York Fashion Week will feature young talents and emerging brands, along with heavyweights such as Ralph Lauren, Michael Kors, 3.1 Phillip Lim, Altuzarra, Gabriela Hearst, Carolina Herrera, Tory Burch and Luar.

The city will then pass the baton to London, Milan and Paris.

“New York has always been a cornerstone of Fashion Week,” said Steven Kolb, CEO of the Council of Fashion Designers of America. “It really underscores how strong it is, in terms of presenting creative thinking.”

Under the humid heat of the New York summer, the six-day marathon kicked off Friday afternoon in Manhattan’s Lower East Side with a show by Helmut Lang, who rose to fame in the 1990s and 2000s, thanks to the minimalist aesthetic of the Austrian artist.

Helmut Lang, the designer, left fashion in 2005 but Helmut Lang, the brand, lives on, bought by Prada and then by the Japanese group Fast Retailing, which owns Uniqlo.

The brand now returns to the runways of the Big Apple with a collection concocted by its new artistic director, Peter Do, widely considered a fashion prodigy.

The show had nostalgic undertones, a bow to the 1990s when it became the first fashion brand to advertise on New York yellow taxi signs.

– Fewer red carpets –

Another brand to make its return on Friday, albeit in Brooklyn where many of the fashion shows have migrated, was Ralph Lauren, the legendary brand that defined American elegance and embodied preppy US style with an annual turnover of more than $6 billion.

The brand, whose founder was born in the Bronx, has not held a show in New York since 2019.

This fashion season is marked by the double strike of Hollywood screenwriters and actors seeking better compensation, which has reduced the number of red carpet previews to a minimum, thus depriving brands of chance to dress stars and promote themselves in the process.

“Certainly, the red carpet is a way to speak to the audience,” said Kolb, adding that fashion shows were no less important.

The “content that they create for social channels will contribute to a very loud, very visible Fashion Week,” he added.

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