New York Fashion Week launched Thursday with spring previews, but consumers don't necessarily have to wait that long to place their orders — and that has potential to upend the traditional fashion calendar.
Typically designers show their shorts and bikinis in September, preparing for spring delivery to stores. The turtlenecks and coats are unveiled in February for the fall.
But this year, the website Moda Operandi is collaborating with Vogue to feed a more immediate click-and-shop mindset for shoppers.
Hours after trendsetting designers such as Marc Jacobs and Proenza Schouler debut their looks on the runway, many outfits will be posted online with descriptions and pricing — things designers used to worry about days and weeks after their shows. Now, they'll be available for immediate order.
Not all looks will be shipped right away, but for the high-fashion customer used to buying top labels, there's a competitiveness to get the order in.
"You're going to be able to order styles within days of the runway show," said Aslaug Magnusdottir, CEO and co-founder of Moda Operandi.
"Fashion Week has always been a press-focused event with a lot of buzz. Then customers were able to see every single style online but they still couldn't secure those styles. They had to wait for their local stores or online retailer to decide to order that style — and hopefully in your size. There's a disconnect there," Magnusdottir said.
Designer Donna Karan, greeting guests at the door of her Madison Avenue boutique as part of Thursday's Fashion's Night Out events, agreed that getting consumers to focus on shopping opportunities in sync with what designers are showing is the wave of the future.
"What I'm here to do is celebrate the fashion season, in season," Karan said.
The new approach eliminates a lot of questions and risks that hold up the fashion cycle. The clothes are essentially being made to order, so there is no inventory to manage and manufacturers can be sure they're getting full price. The full collection will be available instead of the choice pieces favored by retail buyers.
"Certain styles will be available for shorter lead time ... and this is something I think will be a natural development within the industry and it'll happen more and more," Magnusdottir said.
So what are some of the trends that we could be seeing sooner rather than later?
BCBG Max Azria, Richard Chai Love and Tadashi Shoji were among the first to show at the Lincoln Center tents. The schedule was lighter than usual on opening day as many designers prepared to mingle with shoppers at a slew of Fashion's Night Out events.
Next up for fashion insiders in the coming weeks are runway shows in London, Milan and Paris.
With all the news buzzing at the Lincoln Center tents — John Galliano's guilty verdict and President Obama's speech on the economy — Max and Lubov Azria took a soothing approach to lift the mood, at least for a moment.
Dresses continue as their strong suit: A-line sundresses with fanlike pleats, barely there slip dresses and flowing scarf styles. While delicacy and modesty prevailed, there were hints of bolder sexiness with a bra-top style here and a low, open back there.
Most of the looks were rooted in chalk gray, light stone or blush pink but pops of yellow, blue, coral and emerald green were used effectively.
The goal, the Azrias explained in their notes, was a mashup of neutrals with tribal-inspired prints and embroideries "reflecting an urban, global spirit."
The tribal thing wasn't too literal, though, which kept the clothes from being costumey.
Chai's customers must be planning a busy spring, bouncing from the golf course to the Scottish Highlands to the beach. Maybe they'll squeeze in a safari.
His Love label includes men's and women's collections. There was a slight androgynous vibe on the catwalk with colors, patterns and even some silhouettes moving rather seamlessly between the male and female models.
Some of the best looks were in an iris print — effortless tied-around-the-waist skirts for her and a pullover shirt for him. Texture had a big role in the clothes, and that stepped up the solid double-breasted swingy balmacaan coat and coated cotton blazer.
Some of the men's clothes seemed a bit over the top. The baggy board shorts were just too much fabric, especially with the matching blazers, and the muscle T seems a stretch for the runway.
Try picturing the basketball stars lining the front row — Dwayne Wade and A'mare Stoudemire — in the snakeskin-style striped tank. Those guys could pull off the flowery Hawaiian shirts, though.
Shoji threw a garden party with literal and abstract interpretations of flower-inspired fashion.
He was drawn to the tulip, he explained in his notes, because it "is full of life, incessantly evolving and changing in shape."
Besides the purple strapless short frock with a classic tulip hemline and the more unusual floor-length version, Shoji also offered floral appliques, floral prints and floral-inspired lace. All of his colors had flora names, including daisy, petunia, fern, magnolia, rosebud and willow.
He strayed from his theme a little for a series of hand-painted striped dresses — and a boatneck gown in black and a blush primrose color was particularly nice. It was sleeker than many of the other looks.
An off-the-shoulder dress with a flounce around the neckline was also quite pretty.
Dresses with bodices wrapped in grosgrain ribbon but tiers of tulle on the skirt captured a little yin and yang. Beaded dresses with blousoned tops had a lightness you don't always see with heavy embellishment.
As for the ivory-colored tulle and lace gown, it would be lovely for a bride, but there probably aren't many other occasions to wear it.