New York Fashion Week honors 9/11

Grace Catalone, Reporter

For years there has been a constant question lingering within the fashion industry, “What is the appropriate way to honor 9/11 on its anniversary?” 

Although New York Fashion Week (NYFW) doesn’t inherently have any direct link to the 9/11 tragedy, the timing of the fall show allowed the fashion industry to forge a bond that continues to today.

For years, many people in the fashion industry have felt uncomfortable and even guilty about attending shows for New York Fashion Week on the 9/11 anniversary. Many feel that it can be out of touch and disrespectful and some even fear it might give them a bad name for going. 

Most years, Fashion Week is held on September 8th through September 12th, right over the anniversary of 9/11. Because NYFW has been going on since 1943, moving the dates to work around the 11th wouldn’t feel the same for many who have been involved since the beginning. 

“I was living in Greenwich Village, in an apartment with a terrace that faced directly onto the Twin Towers. As I was on the phone, I saw the first plane go into the first tower. I immediately thought I’d witnessed an unimaginable accident. I was still on the phone, trying to comprehend what had happened, when the second plane went into the second tower. In that moment, I knew this was no accident but an act of terrorism. My phone went dead, and I dropped to my knees watching the aftermath,” Michael Kors said in an interview with Harper’s Bazaar.

Almost everyone important in fashion, designing, and modeling goes to New York to either attend or hold shows. Many felt and saw the effects of the tragedy because they were around the area when it happened. Some had been seen fleeing from buildings and running as far away as they could. Many also felt the loss of 9/11 due to losing innocent loved ones in one of the two planes or the Twin Towers. 

After the 9/11 tragedy, the remainder of the 73 shows for the 2002 spring lines were cancelled and the shows were evacuated. Rescue and Recovery efforts were called soon after to help turn the show’s location to a field hospital. 

“And very sadly, in the course of 24 hours, no survivors were brought in. And then they asked us to turn it into a morgue. And no bodies came. Then finally they asked us to turn it into a family center, a place where people could bring something from their lost one to match the DNA,” said Alexandre de Betak, the founder of fashion production company Bureau Batak, in an interview with Harper’s Bazaar

After this, the next step everyone was thinking about was rebuilding. Everyone came together and agreed that it was vital to begin to move on together. 

“The show must go on. These people cannot win. We decided to show in the showroom, with no music, no set, no anything, out of respect. We put one flower on each chair. And everyone wore a black armband with an American flag,” Adam Lippes said in the Harper’s Bazaar interview. 

As a replacement of the shows that got cancelled and a way of rebuilding the Fashion Week brand, Vogue and decided to come together and hold a more laid back group show on September 21st. The show included 11 of those designers and was called “An American View” and provided a more intimate and meaningful alternative to what was previously planned. Many mark the day as a time when the industry came together to collectively support and start the rehabilitation and rebuilding of the esteem of the whole industry and America. 

Since 2001, many big designers have held shows in honor of that day. For example, in 2015, designer Givenchy held a special tribute show from 9/11 in place of his normal show’s spot in Fashion Week. 

The show was held on the Hudson River pier 26 with the World Trade Center Freedom Tower in view. Givenchy went to extensive lengths to make this show respectful and have a lighter touch, different from their previous years. The backdrop behind the models catwalk even had a design of a man and a small child facing the Freedom Tower, and beside it, a man getting hosed down by an open spigot.

Other designers have shown their respect for the holiday in less extravagant ways. Many have shown their respect by holding extra moments of silence, donated to Victim Compensation Funds (VCF), and putting extra flowers on chairs. 

“This year for the first time, the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) blocked off the 9 a.m. time slot on the Fashion Calendar — roughly the time the planes hit the Twin Towers — in acknowledgment, and donated $15,000 to the Sept. 11 museum,”says the New York Times

Though the anniversary still hits close to home every year, it has gotten easier to rebrand the fashion shows held on 9/11 as a tribute and coming together by the whole industry to support something that goes far beyond fashion. 

“In a way, I think it’s a great message of rebuilding and going forward,” Joseph Altuzarra told the New York Times in an interview.   “It’s also obviously a very sad day. It was really important for me in the program to address it. I feel dual emotions. It’s sort of how I felt when I was watching the ceremony this morning. It’s obviously incredibly sad, and there’s a sort of positivity also that you hear about rebuilding.”