“Dear Mister Fantasy play us a tune
Something to make us all happy
Do anything take us out of this gloom
Sing a song, play guitar
Make it snappy.”
— Steve Winwood, Chris Wood, Jim Capaldi
Yes, it’s time. Our country has managed to navigate this frightful pandemic better than most others, aside from our horrific death toll of 600,000. Despite this horrendous statistic, we have much to be thankful for. New York now has the lowest positivity rate in the entire country. And so we have begun to focus on a live New York Fashion Week once again. Or rather, American Fashion Week, as it is now being dubbed. As we’ve taken the global lead in combating the virus, we must now take the lead in the rebirth of fashion. We have the opportunity to demonstrate our strengths, and for so many reasons, New York City is the right city and it’s the right time for our incredibly talented designers to initiate the world to the unique and fresh perspectives we have always brought to the industry and hence to the consumer.
I’m a staunch supporter of American Fashion. And I’ve always believed that the most appropriate place for American brands to show the world what they do is right here. We suffered an exodus over the past years that disturbed me greatly. And there was subsequently significant talk about the weaknesses in our show lineup. It was unfortunate that NYC was not the venue of choice for all American brands then. But what goes around comes around, and many designers have chosen to return to NYC this September. What they deemed to be greener pastures in prior years have browned somewhat now. The calendar will once again be full with talent, both new and established. In addition, the week will culminate in the Met’s Costume Institute Ball, an event that now attracts the eyes of the entire world.
As consumers transition from what they need to what they desire, our designers have a unique opportunity to provide them with whimsy, beauty and cool, and to showcase the best that America has to offer. Give us fashion! Real fashion. Not derivative, not logo-driven, not a fallback on heritage and history, but newness, positivity, edgy creativity, inclusivity and individuality. Many of the major European brands, ruled by the conglomerates that own them, have been trying way too hard to be relevant, while still utilizing the trends that we developed here. Clothing emblazoned with huge logos and branding is not our strength. We don’t sell product because of a name we might splash across the leg or chest. American designers who don’t fall back upon in-your-face branding, but rather forge ahead on design elements are showing, not telling, the world what fashion is. They are showing us the way with design, not shouting at us with words. Many of our best American designers brand themselves by silhouette (Thom Browne) or singular and unique proportions (Rick Owens) or with repurposed and anti-trend, smart clothing (Yeohlee’s all black collection in the age of feminine prints, Greg Lauren’s beautiful tapestries of multifarious textiles), tough chic (R13’s brilliant juxtapositions of hard and soft), beautiful, feminine, boho chic (Ulla Johnson’s textural combinations and flawless consistency), and truthful, modern, evolved and luxurious, effortless street wear, (Joey Lorenzo’s Fear of God).
How many American brands do you see emblazoning their products with oversized lettering announcing who they are? Not many. We do not chase style here. We set it. Our younger brands inspire us with newness and an obvious and outspoken indifference to global trends. And our mature brands continue to deliver modern iterations of who they are and what has made them enduring. What could be more appropriate and inspiring today than novel directions taken during our rediscovery that help and guide us toward what we actually want? We’ve all undoubtedly been changed by the pandemic, and we are bursting with recently unfulfilled needs. What better way to express our moods and feelings than with our apparel choices? I fully expect that the runways of NYFW will be rife with creative and inspiring ideas that have been germinating during our 15 long, dark months of lockdowns and isolation. And I fully expect to be thrilled by the innovations and new directions, distilled from the choices foisted upon us by our recent circumstances and presented without backward glances, but rather with forward-thinking, unique perspectives.
As the sun finally rises again on our country, NYFW should be a beacon of hope, inspiring us and bringing smiles to our faces once more. Give us the palettes and the paints to help us re-create our lives. As music led the social revolutions of the ’60’s and ’70’s, let fashion provide today’s voices of individuality, diversity, sustainability and inclusivity. And let it begin here, this September in NYC.
Gary Wassner is chief executive officer of fashion factoring company Hilldun Corp. and chairman of Interluxe Holdings.
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