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CAN NEW YORK GET ITS GROOVE BACK?

Mercedes Benz Fashion Week S/S 08Mercedes Benz Fashion Week S/S 08

While trawling the agencies all week (its not as seedy as it sounds) to scan the scene, TI picked up on a strange frequency. Apart from a faint enthusiasm as to what referential/vintage road Marc might go down next, there is not, in general, a sense of excitement at the modeling agencies regarding the upcoming shows. Of course there is the customary dread as to the 17 non-stop days of booking between now and the end of the NY shows. There is the bracing for the daily abuse that is sure to come from stressed out, harried casting directors screaming “What do you mean Calvin has her exclusive? How about if I don't book a single one of your models then?” And then there are the endless after-parties that one is obliged to trot your prize girls around as if NY had become one massive pony show. So make that 17 non-stop 17 hour days. And the windfall from all that? Obscure designers who pay in trade, offering unwanted clothes to the models in lieu of cash. An off-skelter schedule toe-jammed with shows which means major conflicts every day. Clients switching around casting directors with reckless abandon. Casting directors taking shows that pay a grand total of $4,000. And the compensation to the models is still “trade” which means said casting director is expected to solicit top girls for next to nothing while being paid next to nothing. It is not as glamorous a living as you'd hope to think.
In all of this there is a general sense that NY has lost its model-breaking leverage. Back in the glory days of the early Zeroes Natasa Vojnovic, Louise Pederson and Elize Crombez were having their first significant show bookings out of NY. A girl like Rianne Ten Hakken could open Marc Jacobs and instantly be contracted for a Vogue Italia cover and a Versace campaign. But now an agency owner sighs and concedes “NY doesn't make girls anymore. Its all about Milan and Paris. That's what Steven is waiting for” . Another explained the very small selection of in-coming girls in their show package with the deadly phrase “visa quota”. One major reason why NY no longer sees the best newcomers from the foreign markets is that once the quota for models are filled for the year, you won't stand a new chance of getting a new girl in until October. (Funny enough models and computer programmers are put in the same category by US Immigration). What that means is girls like Irina K and Catherine Mc Neil who already had a massive FW 07 season on the European platform are now showing up in NY for their first full season . That overspill means they gobble out the 2 or 3 spots for fresher faces in the cabines of the more conservative clients and NY remains, yet again one season behind.
And then there is the question of creativity. All this frenzy of young designers. But for every Phillip Lim who displays a true sense of thrust and direction, there are a dozen unformed designers giving off a lot of noise on the NY catwalks. They have the right to work through their aesthetic in public, but the carbon copy designs, one season behind ! Why? The copycat cabines of having to have all the usual suspects i.e “top girls” (for trade?) . The lack of courage to pursue a personal vision renders too many of them a distraction as opposed to a renewal.
A third agency powerhouse reduced his show booking priorities to three significant clients: Marc Jacobs/Marc by Marc, Anna Sui and Calvin Klein. And even then there are more sighs in that regard as those bookings are more politesse as opposed to critical showcases that drive the blue chip editors and photographers to pick their “models of the season”. Marc is now flooded with so many girls doing 1 look a piece that the selectivity is less than it used to be (Though reliable rumors are that this season's shows will be more severely edited ) The sash of “world's most important runway” now unequivocally belongs to Prada in Milan, which under the casting direction of Russell Marsh in the last five years have emitted new stars like Suvi, Sasha and Daria from its opening slots . Recently influential in Paris is the Balenciaga, currently considered responsible for igniting the careers of Hilary Rhoda and Coco Rocha. And we're sure those houses are already doing their utmost to continue their stranglehold on their respective markets. Such is the daunting power of Prada that there are agents who hide a seriously promising new face from the view of other clients in the hope that Prada will fly her in to confirm her for that show, at the expense of every other NY and Milan booking. And even if the girl makes it to the line-up on the evening of the show, there is no guarantee that she'll survive a last minute cancellation when Miuccia Prada's exacting eye scans her, just one more time, just before she hits the catwalk.How fun would it be if such a persona existed in NY?
The compelling thing about fashion is its ability to contradict itself. All it takes is the decision of a certain five people (designer, editor, photographer, stylist, casting director) to create some consistency of line on that one given girl and NY could swing right back into the model breaking business. Or among the new generation of rising designers, most notably Proenza Schouler a new commitment to new faces could trigger that shift . Especially if they keep Katie Grand in their camp with her promise of Pop and Mert n Marcus and Mulberry and Vuitton . That is , unless of course the almighty Prada decides to raise its already formidable quality control. The game begins!

Taste is a dictatorship.

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