EXCLUSIVE: Scott Sternberg Spills About Canceling His Spring ’15 Show
It’s no secret that fashion week is jam-packed, and the conundrum of New York’s hectic, often overlapping schedule has been at the center of industry conversations. Brands have begun to switch it up— Oscar de la Renta last season cut his invite list in half; Rag & Bone hosted a photography presentation in lieu of a runway event to debut its Spring ’15 menswear range; Gareth Pugh is this season “disrupting” New York fashion week with a secret extravaganza; and Opening Ceremony is putting on a play instead of sending models down the runway. Band of Outsiders’ Scott Sternberg is the latest designer to take the road less traveled, this morning announcing that he won’t be showing at all. Instead, he’ll be focusing his attentions on the September 7 launch of his first New York flagship. “I mean, literally, I thought nobody would notice,” laughed Sternberg over the phone from L.A. “I just figured we’d fly under the radar and focus on the store this season,” he added. Naturally, however, his choice to forgo a runway romp instantly made headlines, in part due to comments the designer made last season condemning the “dog-and-pony show” that fashion week has become. Here, Sternberg speaks exclusively with Style.com about why he’s skipping the catwalk; his new store and collection; and why, in reality, he doesn’t mind the “dog-and-pony show” so much after all.
—Katharine K. Zarrella
So why did you decide to skip the show this season?
You know, to us here in L.A. who are sort of living in our own bubble, it was so obvious. We’ve been thinking about it for a while. Somehow it became a news item. Fashion week is a platform to put ideas out there and be part of the fashion dialogue. But it’s also a really, really dense platform now. If you look at that calendar, there are a million shows a minute. What are we ultimately trying to do when we step back and think about it? We’re trying to convey a message about the brand and where the brand’s at. Normally, that’s through a collection, but it felt like this season, even just from a clarity-communication perspective, we wanted the message to be about the store. I didn’t think it was a big deal to not have a presentation. Once we started talking about it with our PR and other people in New York, they were like, “Really? Huh. OK. Maybe we should rethink this.” But ultimately, the collection’s really strong. It stands on its own, even on a rack. We’re opening a showroom behind the store, and when we have the opening event a week from Saturday, the showroom will be open as well and the collection will be in there.
So editors will still be able to go into the showroom and touch, feel, and experience the clothes?
Oh, yeah. The collection has a rich narrative behind it just like anything else we do. The beauty of me not sitting in castings and fittings and going through this laborious process of putting on a show is that I can really focus on the store and focus on the business aspects. I’m both the creative and the business leader of the company, so there’s a lot to do there. Beyond that, I’ll actually be able to take a lot of press appointments and do what we do with the pre-collections, which is talk people through the pieces.
Do you find that one-on-one experience with editors and buyers more beneficial than a show?
Yeah. For me, I think it’s more about you guys. It’s about an editor or a reviewer or a stylist. And you know, there’s always an opportunity to tell the story in a different way. I think if I just sat in a showroom season after season, holding items up and having a model walk in a look or two, that wouldn’t be so compelling. But if you look at the totality of how many collections we’ll be putting together and how many we’ve shown over the years, it seems this is a valid way to do it one season. Then, another season, we can have a rock-ish runway show and another season it can be a straightforward presentation. With menswear, we’ve tried to redefine what a fashion show is and engage editors and consumers directly during fashion week in a way that’s not so reliant on the typical format of a presentation or a runway show. I think [all these methods] are effective, and I think it’s really the totality of the message over time and the story of the brand and how all those pieces sort of play together.
Do you think that you’ll show next season, or will you try to do something a little bit different?
We’ve done shows for men where I put a model in a gallery window in Paris for three days and filmed him changing into 32 looks. We had a scavenger hunt one season. I’m a Hollywood guy, so I’ve always felt that a show, no matter if it’s a static presentation or something else, it’s gotta be a show! And listen, you don’t want to make it difficult for everybody. There are a lot of people showing, there’s a lot of great stuff out there—you guys are all busy. Ultimately, it should be convenient, for lack of a better term. Easy, but certainly not always reliant on the same format. Who knows what we’ll do next season. I’m sure it’ll be much more straightforward.
Last season, in an interview with Apartamento, you spoke about the “dog-and-pony show” that fashion week has become. Do you have any thoughts on what we can do to make fashion week more user-friendly and less manic?
Oh, the Apartamento me-in-a-bad-mood-giving-an-interview piece. Yes. Note to self: Don’t take interviews when you haven’t slept the night before. That all came across a little harsh. I actually think the dog-and-pony show at its best is pretty great! I mean, what a great opportunity to be wildly creative in front of all these wildly receptive, creative people in their own right! I do think it’s a bit of a grind season after season if you can’t open yourself up and have the confidence to say, “OK, I’m going to do it a little differently this time.”
When I look at a European show calendar, it definitely seems a little more sane and certainly less democratic, but probably more palatable for an editor. But look at how much fashion images have proliferated into mainstream culture. Social media is the platform—the content is so ripe, it’s so out there, and it’s great for all of us. It’s taken the exclusivity out of what this world used to be, and I think that’s for the betterment of the business. So it’s not such a bad thing, but it’s also tough when you see young designers getting trapped in the cycle and spending a lot of time and resources on a show and not backing up to think about the bigger picture.
Are you worried at all about the repercussions of not showing?
No. Listen, I’m going through the process with Elisa, our stylist. We’ll spend our Labor Day weekend creating the looks out of the products that we’ve been laboring over for months. We’re still doing the looks and we’re still shooting them. When we do the looks, we take them just as seriously—it’s the same conversation as if you’re having a runway show or a presentation or whatever it is. It’s sort of that final step before the campaign. Honestly, the images will still be on Style.com and on our social media. They’ll be as accessible as any show. People will come to the store. And in terms of the images you want out there in the world-world, the store’s the news.
You mentioned you have done some experimental presentations, and now we have Opening Ceremony doing a full-on play, Gareth Pugh coming to New York for a big production, etc. Do you think this is the new way to do things—these off-the-beaten-path presentations?
I hope so. The reality is this: Originally, the purpose of showing was for press and buyers. It was for the market. It wasn’t for the world. And now, inevitably, it’s for everyone. So I think a brand like Opening Ceremony or a brand like Band or somebody who’s not a serious European fashion house can really take this awesome platform—the world’s attention is on New York for a week—and try to do something different. But again, the flip side is there’s a wholesale business. You’re selling a collection and you’ve got to do that within a short period of time. How much time do editors have? If everybody went outside the box, nobody would be inside the box. It would be a very long fashion week with lots of commutes to, like, far out in Brooklyn.
Are there any hints you can give us about the store or the upcoming collection?
The collection is tight. The inspiration started with these graphics taken from Brazilian jazz records from the mid-’60s. They’re so rad. They’re a Tropicália-inspired world of graphics, and I took those and did a lot of research on Brazil and Tropicália in that time period. I looked at all these Louise Dahl-Wolfe photographs. It’s cool. And then the store’s just awesome. It’s like everything I want my store to be. Milk Bar is opening up in front, although that won’t be officially open for probably another week and a half, after the health department does all the things they need to do. But it’s crazy. It’s Band. You’ll see. We tried not to do any retail clichés. Not for the sake of just being different, but to try and have this clean slate in people’s heads about what a store could be. I think it should be cool.
Photo: Stefano Masse / Indigital Images