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CFDA RUNWAY360: THE ECONOMICS + DEMOCRACY OF FASHION

Legendary photographer Bill Cunningham once said, “The wider world that perceives fashion as a frivolity, as something that should be done away with…fashion, you know, point of fact, it’s the armor to survive the reality of everyday life. I don’t think you could do away with it. It would be like doing away with civilization.” 

Of course, our civilization has changed this year–to say the very least. And while doing away with fashion, according to Bill Cunningham, would be like “doing away with civilization,” the fact that New York Fashion Week, and fashion weeks around the globe, were also affected, is a relatively minor setback in the general scheme of life.  However, the exposure that these design and fashion weeks allow designers can impact sales and, ultimately, the livelihood of many people and families, including our own Alabama Chanin’s team. The industry, according to the Joint Economic Committee, “encompasses everything from textile and apparel brands to wholesalers, importers and retailers, employs more than 1.8 million people in the United States.” 

Vanessa Friedman recently asked in her article for the New York Times, titled “Sweatpants Are Not Forever:” 

“Will this time of crisis create any real lasting change in an antiquated system? And what will we actually wear? 

Judging by the opening days of fashion week, even in its truncated, almost all digital hybrid form… the answer is a qualified yes.” 

Thinking about the economics of fashion businesses and the livelihood of families connected to this industry, the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) created a new platform, called Runway360, to serve as a digital fashion week event.  The idea was to allow designers to exhibit many aspects of their brand—from business model, to sales, to press, and design philosophy, alongside a digital fashion presentation. With this platform, all designers were able to present their collections online, using different tools and methods of display. You could live stream, shop some of the collections, host virtual press conferences, and create your own showrooms. The Runway360 platform was designed to be seasonless and usable year-round. 

This has been the most democratic fashion platform to emerge on a large scale. A “one size fits all” platform like this serves as a more level playing field for designers and brands, across the board. As a member of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, the experience of showing our new Florence collection was one of feeling supported as a designer. 

It was also a way for the organization to increase support for emerging, diverse, and underserved designers. In August, CaSandra Diggs was promoted to president of the CFDA, which will continue to work on strategies for diversity, equality, and inclusivity. This is a win for the entire fashion world. 

Digital platforms may not be a complete replacement for the traditional runway experience as textiles are inherently tactile and ask to be viewed up close. Still, this platform is a giant leap in the right direction toward inclusivity and democracy in the design world. We look forward to seeing how it evolves. 

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