On the final day of Fashion Week, students from Parsons and FIT gathered at Milk Studios for a panel discussion about the industry’s future co-sponsored by MAC Cosmetics. Moderated by the International Herald Tribune’s fashion editor, Suzy Menkes, the discussion was mostly lighthearted, and filled with a lot of unanswered questions.
The panel—which included Milk’s creative director, Mazdack Rassi; Open Ceremony co-founders Carol Lim and Humberto Leon; Proenza Schouler designers Jack McCullough and Lazaro Hernandez; New School Dean of Fashion Simon Collins; and designer Alexander Wang—looked a bit the worse for wear. Of course, it was the last day of Fashion Week.
“The whole point of these shows,” Ms. Menkes began, “has been to showcase American fashion.” She asked the Proenza Schouler designers—who had presented at Milk Studios the night before—if there was anything they would have done differently.
“All you really need is passion and a point of view,” Mr. Hernandez said, not really answering.
Talk turned quickly to the topic of technology. Ms. Menkes asked if there was an alternative to the traditional runway show.
“I’ve had to face as a journalist, the fact that bloggers—maybe they can do my job and do it better,” she said.
Mr. Lazaro argued that technology had already changed fashion by making it more democratic.
“Everyone’s gonna see it on the Internet the next day,” he said.
“You haven’t quite answered my question,” Ms. Menkes said, and moved on to Mr. Collins. His advice for designers?
“Get a job first. Make all the mistakes with someone else’s money.”
“You’re pretty keen on parties,” Ms. Menkes said, turning quickly to Mr. Wang.
The designer—looking especially casual in sweat pants, and a dirty, ripped white t-shirt, had held a party the night before in the gas station next to Milk Studios. He started talking about “finding the right people to dress.”
There was still no word on the industry’s future.
“We’re involved in creating the image of fashion,” Mr. Rassi said of his increasingly influential studio and event space. “We know that television and the Internet will merge in the next 5 years. That’s really the future of media. It’s all merging together.”
But what about fashion?
“Can anyone be a fashion designer?” Ms. Menkes asked. “Can anyone be a journalist? Can anyone be a stylist?”
“If you put enough monkeys in a room with typewriters, one of them will eventually write Shakespeare,” Mr. Collins said.
“These bloggers are starting to get invited to shows,” Mr. McCullough said, somewhat shocked.
Ms. Menkes opened the floor for questions from the students.
“We don’t want to hear any rants,” Ms. Menkes said. “Anybody out there want to make a pitch?” One girl stood up with her look book, asking the Opening Ceremony founders to take a gander.
“I have to go off and see Calvin Klein,” Ms. Menkes said. “Lucky me.”
But what is the future of the fashion industry? Where are the answers?
“Students have said to me ‘I want to be the new Calvin Klein’ or ‘I want to be the new Rodarte.’” she said. “I just want to say to you all, no you don’t. You want to be yourselves. Fashion needs individuality and individual imagination far more than it needs a carbon copy of any of the designers out there. So remember that. You are the most important people in the industry now.”