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What New York Fashion Week Is Like For A Brand You Actually Wear

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We always love bringing you behind the scenes of our favorite designers’ runway shows. From New York to Paris, we always do our best to go backstage and bring you all the intel when it comes to makeup, models, and, of course, the fashion. With luxury brands, it’s glitz and glam. Many times, editors and buyers alike see clothes that don’t even make it into stores. These are called “shows” for a reason, after all.

But what about the brands that you’re actually wearing? The contemporary brands, mid-price, that also preview their collections across the world? What is fashion week like for them? For these brands, shows mean something very different.

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Cinq a Sept is an American contemporary label inspired by the hours between 5 and 7 p.m., “when city streets are awash in the warm glow of the vanishing sun and office desks are abandoned for cocktails and as-yet-unknown possibilities.” Launched in 2015 by Jane Siskin, a fashion industry veteran who previously launched brands like 7 For All Mankind and Elizabeth and James, the brand was an instant hit and a top seller at some of the world’s biggest retailers like Saks and Bergdorf Goodman.

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With prices ranging from $85-$1995 (for a fur coat), you won’t find Cinq a Sept prepping for a Parisian runway show. I don’t think it’s appropriate for a contemporary brand to have anything more than a presentation,” Siskin tells InStyle about the format of her collection previews. “We get to see and engage with all the press and all the influencers. We invite key customers and retailers to really create a relationship. I love the feedback. I always think I know what people are going to like and I’m wrong as much as I’m right. It’s always interesting and surprising to see what people react to,” she says.

Siskin is only a few weeks away from presenting her Fall 2019 collection, which is inspired by romance before Instagram.

“How did people communicate? They wrote love letters and they would have to wait weeks for the love letter to arrive. What that anticipation must have felt like,” Siskin says. “From very early on, we knew that we wanted to connect our venue and our presentation with the story of the clothes. With this case, the Pierre Hotel, the ballroom, the room, all have so much to do with that period and that romance.” And ultimately, with the clothes.

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Creating a presentation doesn’t start or stop with making the clothes, especially for a young brand. There’s music, food, flowers, models, beauty…and then some.

“There’s a mood board that’s created early on and is indicative of where we are headed in terms of the direction of hair, makeup, music and even food,” Siskin says of her process. “It’s all so connected. The music, for me, sets the tone entirely. Especially with our upcoming collection, music is definitely one of the more important features. So I think that it’s very much top of mind from the very beginning. I have one on ones with the lead hairstylist, the lead makeup artists…we are all very connected.”

For Siskin, and contemporary brands like hers, the most important thing — the reason for even participating in fashion week —is to continue telling the brand’s story. “We are fortunate enough to have a brand that exudes an emotion: the unknown and the unexpected. We want to always provide an experience, not just show the clothes,” she says.

This type of experiential environment allows Siskin and her team to interact with people (editors, buyers, friends) in real time during the presentation, getting feedback (both positive and negative), which she then can make fast decisions based on.

“When I see that people react to a certain color or silhouette, it’s really easy for us to respond and do more versions of it; or if they hate it, take it away. I love when people tell me what their favorite looks are which often are different from mine.” Siskin has been known to even cut dresses following shows, just because the length simply didn’t work the way she thought it would.

“I think that if you’re going to do a presentation as a contemporary brand, you should have something to say. I’m not going to do it if I don’t have anything to say,” she says. “There’s a lot of things you can’t control prior to show. And then after, there’s the letdown. It’s basically like planning a wedding twice a year for us.”

You can shop Cinq a Sept here.

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