By MIKE CHAIKEN
Plitzs New York City Fashion Week is joining the march to virtual runway shows this fall as COVID-19 has forced many fashion events to bar the public from their seasonal showcases.
This year, fashion week in New York was pushed off until Sept. 13-16 rather than its usual setting of the week following Labor Day due to the pandemic. Many of the shows will be livestreamed or limited to small socially distanced crowds if they are open to guests.
Plitzs will hold its livestreaming events on Tuesday, Sept. 15 where the public will be able to watch on YouTube and Facebook the shows held in NYC’s gallery district.
Elle Stovall, one of the designers participating in this year’s Plitzs shows, said the virtual shows will take some adjustments to get used to. In a virtual press conference held by Plitzs on Sept. 10, Stovall said she typically feeds off the energy of the crowd at these shows. She also enjoys hearing and seeing the guests’ response to her garments. However, she said this immediate feedback won’t be possible with a livestream.
However, Stovall said, “It’s the new face of fashion. We have to adjust. We have to make it work.”
Designer Justin Mercado said he thought the move to virtual runway shows was great. A virtual show is more inclusive, he noted, allowing more members of the public to see the collections. And they can watch the shows whenever they want.
Mercado said usually fashion shows can be difficult to get into. A virtual show removes the barrier of exclusivity.
Designer Victoria Randall explained she had no context for comparing an in-person show versus a virtual show since this will be her first-ever fashion show. “Everything is new to me.” But with the ongoing concerns due to the pandemic, she liked the idea of having a virtual presentation this season.
COVID-19 has disrupted many dimensions of life. Live events, from theater to concerts, are on hold. Travel has been curtailed. Many people also have lost their jobs due to the disease.
Fashion has not been immune. And the designers who spoke at the Plitzs press conference said the pandemic has changed their career path and lives. It also has strengthened their resolve to pursue a fashion career path.
Designer Pamela Sotomayer, who had to leave Florida and quarantine in Queens before participating in the fashion show, said, “I think for me, (continuing with her fashion dreams despite COVID) shows the perseverance of the brand… I’m still pushing forward and I’m still hungry for success.”
“I want to jump over these obstacles (brought about by COVID-19),” said Sotomayer, who is a professional dancer.
Sotomayer said she feels “blessed” to be able to get to show her creations during New York Fashion Week despite the pandemic.
Designer Queen Toussaint was among the many Americans who lost their day job during the shutdown in March to fight the virus.
When she was called back from furlough, Toussaint said she opted to turn down the offer because the position was not the one for which she was hired. Instead, she decided to use the time provided to her by the pandemic to work on her fashion brand.
A hot topic following the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement has been the need for more diversity in the fashion industry.
As evidenced by the Plitzs press conference, the Sept. 15 event has gathered a diverse group of designers.
Jennifer Williams, one of the designers, said the fashion world needs more events like Plitzs that includes black fashion designers.
“You can never have too much (diversity),” said Sotomayer. “I definitely believe black American need to be showcased more.”
Many larger fashion brands profit from the sale of their products to black people, said Sotomayer. But these big brands need to give back to the community that supports them, said Sotomayer.
As a designer, said Sotomayer, she makes it a mission to be inclusive. “My clothes, my models and audience is diverse,” said Sotomayer. “Everyone can wear my clothes. They’re not directed to one particular culture or sex.”
The problem with fashion today is that it has limited the concept of beauty to one particular set of guidelines, said Mercado. Everyone should be considered beautiful, he said. If this philosophy can be accepted by everyone, he said there will no longer need to have movements like Black Lives Matter.
Plitzs New York City Fashion Week (Plitzs) is Tuesday, Sept. 15 beginning at 12 p.m.