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Slimmed down New York Fashion Week kicks off in Trump shadow

New York Fashion Week will offer slimmer pickings than usual when it kicks off Thursday as big names decamp to Paris or Los Angeles and fashionistas search for renewed meaning in the Donald Trump era.

More than 230,000 people will flood into America's biggest city and cultural capital to attend the bi-annual style bonanza held in September and February, where hundreds of shows, deals and parties rake in nearly 900 million dollars.

Celebrity watchers will be out in force for rapper Kanye West, who returns to the public eye after a rumored nervous breakdown to show his Yeezy Season 5 range, no doubt hoping to avoid the complaints of last season, when models fainted and his hand-picked audience wilted in a much-delayed, sweltering out-door show.

While most events will take place in the achingly hip Chelsea and Soho neighborhoods, the king of cool Alexander Wang is reportedly making the glitterati trek all the way to Harlem, the historical heartland of African-American culture. But expect a topsy-turvy fall/winter 2017 season with liberal America up in arms over the Trump presidency, absent designers and growing questions about the merits and format of fashion week period.

Slimmed down New York Fashion Week kicks off in Trump shadow

Take Flight

Tommy Hilfiger, the multi-billion-dollar brand loved for its theatrical shows, is leading the exodus to Los Angeles, unveiling his second collection in collaboration with model Gigi Hadid on Venice Beach. Following suit are Rachel Comey and Rebecca Minkoff. Hood by Air and Rodarte are Paris-bound, with Proenza Schouler to follow in July after a fall/winter 2017 swan song in New York on February 13.

Vera Wang is replacing a runway show with a short movie, to be released online to coincide with the opening of shows in Paris on the same day she is to be awarded France's highest honor, the Legion d'Honneur. Also sitting out the season are DKNY, Opening Ceremony, which costumed a ballet production instead, and Puma-Rihanna street wear collaboration Fenty.

Fresh start

The most hotly anticipated event of the week is Belgian designer Raf Simons' debut as chief creative officer at the iconic New York label Calvin Klein, unifying its brands and showcasing men and women's wear together. Design duo Fernando Garcia and Laura Kim will make their debut at Oscar de la Renta after showing their own label, Monse, in back-to-back time slots.

European entree

La Perla, the Italian lingerie brand, is showcasing its first ready-to-wear collection on Thursday. German designer Philipp Plein has defected from Milan and the French label Zadig and Voltaire is celebrating its 20-year anniversary on Monday.

Slimmed down New York Fashion Week kicks off in Trump shadow

Trump that

Look out for politics with New York up in arms over the controversy-laden Trump presidency. Several designers took part in women's protest marches on Washington and New York after his inauguration.

The Council of Fashion Designers of America is teaming up with Planned Parenthood to distribute hot-pink buttons in support of the US women's health care provider, which Republicans are determined to defund.

A video posted by cfda (@cfda) on

More than 40 brands are taking part, including Diane von Furstenberg. Planned Parenthood reportedly received more than 550 million dollars in government funding in 2014, around half of its total revenue. Hillary Clinton, Trump's defeated Democratic rival and darling of the fashion industry, is tipped to speak at a Postal Service ceremony for a new Oscar de la Renta stamp, an event expected to draw a flood of celebrities.

What does it mean?

The consumer revolution that Tommy Hilfiger and a handful of other brands ushered in last year -- offering clothes for the current season rather than six months down the line -- appears to have stalled. At least for now.

Ralph Lauren, among those to jump ship last season, announced last week that chief executive Stefan Larsson is leaving following disagreements over how to position the clothing line in the fast-changing retail universe.

"The most disappointing thing in fashion today is that there's so much going on," designer Carly Cushnie says. "It was better when we all went together, collaborating, in a same calendar."

Some are asking whether fashion week will survive in its current format, with live streaming and engaging the consumer directly suggesting that designers no longer have to stick to the old calendar.

"I think it all is coming out of the struggles in the fashion industry to figure out how to function in the new digital world and overcrowded retail world," said Christina Binkley, a former Wall Street Journal fashion columnist. (AFP)

Photo 1:Raf Simons, courtesy of CFDA

Photo 2: Alexander Wang, Facebook

Photo 3: Tommy Hilfiger, Facebook