New York's Fashion Show-goers have been griping about Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week since long before it moved from Bryant Park to Lincoln Center, but the choruses of dissatisfaction have grown in volume in recent seasons, and Next year, it looks like the event will finally be losing what's left of its top tier of designer. It has been years since most of America's biggest designers like Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan and Marc Jacobs have shown under IMG's tent complexes at either Bryant Park or Lincoln Center (despite being on the schedule as 'off-site' participants), and hotter, young designers like Rodarte, Proenza Schouler, Alexander Wang, Jason Wu and Prabal Gurung have either never shown there at all, or swiftly disassociated themselves from the location after an initial show or two there.
Now, WWD is reporting that Michael Kors and Diane Von Furstenberg, the two most prominent designers who have faithfully remained at the tents, are expected to show their Fall 2014 collections elsewhere, joining Vera Wang and Carolina Herrera who have already indicated that they will be exploring other venue options when Fashion Week rolls around on February 6th. That makes four major losses for IMG in one season alone, a major blow to MBFW's prestige and without anyone representing America's top luxury brands showing there, it's claim of being New York's official Fashion Week venue ring more hollow than ever. For its part, IMG has already announced changes for the venue to make it less circus-like, but their announcements center around trimming guest lists, and making venues smaller blaming bloggers and attention seeking guests looking to be discovered by street style photographers for Fashion Week's problems. The real reason why designers have been steadily exiting the tents over the past few seasons, however, has been the excessive presence of ever less upscale sponsors, giving the tents a trade-show atmosphere starting with main sponsor Mercedes-Benz's insistence on putting shiny cars where no car should be —in a fashion show tent. It turned out that America's biggest designers do not want to show in the same place that Joan Rivers is taping an episode of "Fashion Police", or where there is a huge booth for yet another questionable fashion reality TV show like Rihanna's "Styled to Rock", but this is how IMG has made money on Fashion Weeks not only in New York but in many cities worldwide. This activity is not likely to slow down.
So what will the next New York Fashion Week mean for what was once New York's prized fashion venue? IMG isn't commenting on the lineup until it is officially announced in a couple of weeks, and many popular designers like Monique Lhuillier, Tory Burch, Nanette Lepore and BCBG are still expected to show there, but they are mostly not what one would call "Big Tent" designers who can fill the largest show venue to capacity. IMG and Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week are in a bit of a transition themselves having just been purchased by William Morris Endeavor and Silver Lake Partners who are expected to take a long look at the feasability of the show complex. The CFDA is finally getting more involed too, joining with The Fashion Calendar to try and impose some order on the hundreds of shows that now take place in New York. The organization originally created the central show location two decades ago to keep designers in one place so attendees wouldn't have to travel all over town. Now, fashion week sprawls more than ever. Most designers and the CFDA are looking forward a few years when the Culture Shed at Hudson Yards will become the official home to New York Fashion Week, but whether or not IMG and Mercedes-benz will be invited —or even be involved at all remains in question. Expect to hear a lot more about the future of Fashion Week between now and February 6th, so stay tuned.