Bryan R. Smith/Agence France-Presse

Tom Ford, Rihanna, and the return of big names including Tommy Hilfiger herald a promised new era for New York Fashion Week which kicks off Friday after a run of underwhelming seasons.

American designer Ford is credited with reviving Gucci in the 1990s and has quickly set about trying to do the same for Fashion Week, shortening its length and strengthening its diversity.

“I want global exposure to the creativity that is in New York,” said Ford, who in June became chairman of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) which runs Fashion Week.

“Everything is too inward-looking in this country. So American star designers, they leave. Virgil Abloh, where is he? He’s at Vuitton.

“You go to Paris and you become global. You stay in New York, and you’re in New York,” he added in the interview with Vogue, published in August.

Ford drove the CFDA’s decision to cut this year’s Fashion Week from seven to five days, a move insiders have been calling for for years to strengthen the event.

The women’s shows — which traditionally kicked off on a Wednesday night — will begin on Friday evening and run through the evening of Wednesday, September 11.

Ford’s background is a significant departure from that of his predecessor Diane Von Furstenberg, who chaired the CFDA for 13 years.

Her house “DVF” has called New York home for half a century, while Ford, a Texan by birth, worked in Italy and England for a time before settling in Los Angeles.

New York is the first of the season’s four big fashion weeks and tightening the schedule makes it more attractive to buyers and foreign media scoping out talented new designers.

Diversity

“A shortened week is more economical and expeditious for attendees, especially those coming to New York from abroad,” said Steven Kolb, president and chief executive officer of the CFDA.

New York has struggled in recent years with several leading designers opting to showcase their collections elsewhere, including in Paris and even Los Angeles.

Abloh, Rodarte, Altuzarra, Thom Browne and Alexander Wang have been among high-profile names to skip the event recently, leading some commentators to speculate whether New York Fashion Week was over.

There are early signs that its revival has already begun under Ford with several famous designers returning to the event, such as Tommy Hilfiger who is back for the first time in almost three years.

Pop icon Rihanna will present her bestselling lingerie line Savage X Fenty after it premiered in September 2018.

Another eagerly awaited show is acclaimed Haitian-American designer Kerby Jean-Raymond who will display the latest in his Pyer Moss line.

Telfar, Tomo Koizumi and Khaite are also hotly anticipated.

The fun starts with a dinner chaired by Ford where dozens of young New York designers will be present.

Diversity will again be a major theme. The CFDA is committed to having a greater range of models from different ethnic groups and representing varied body shapes.

The council recently appointed Jean-Raymond, Abloh and British designer Carly Cushnie, who are all black, to its board. Chilean-born designer Maria Cornejo also joined.

“Diversity, inclusion, and model well-being are key to our efforts, as is showcasing young talent, which is core to our work,” said Kolb.

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