(From left) Looks from Coach 1941 Fall 2018, Brandon Maxwell Fall 2018, Eckhaus Latta Fall 2019 and Pyer Moss Fall 2018.

“We started at the bottom of the American economy, so it’s not like we came into fashion at a time where makeup companies were giving away dozens and dozens of dollars to sponsor a show. We’re not used to that. So it sounds like it was all peachy for some people at some point, but for us, we’ve never known that so it all feels great.” Zoe Latta, cofounder, Eckhaus Latta

“[American fashion is] democratic in that training, experience and quantifications are less important. Anyone with a POV or one hero product can start a brand. A weakness is that many of these designers don’t have the structure and business acumen around them to find success. We shower them with praise and accolades and pages of press, but they don’t have a solid structure around their business to create longevity.” Lauren Santo Domingo, cofounder and chief brand officer, Moda Operandi

“I think the one thing that’s hard in America — and I would say for myself, too — is we have a tendency to put a lot of light and flashiness onto young people very early on. Their first collection comes out, they’re a star, they’re going to change the industry. The reality is, when you’re running a business, there are going to be successes, there are going to be major failures. I wake up every morning just thinking, ‘Okay, what do I need to figure out today?’ You learn new things.” Brandon Maxwell

“The question is, what do we qualify as ‘American fashion?’ America has pioneered and owns the concept of easy wear, making American sportswear the worldwide paradigm of great design with wearable usage. A few decades ago, when houses in Europe needed to bring freshness and wearability, many of them turned to American designers — Tom Ford at Gucci and at Saint Laurent, Marc Jacobs at [Louis] Vuitton, Michael Kors at Céline….Now, versatility and movement are new global paradigms that can be seen as opportunities for American fashion. We all watched the influence of Supreme, Alyx, etc., and question whether Nike is fashion? Yes, when we see the level of talent having contributed and contributing to Nike: Sacaï, Riccardo Tisci, Kim Jones, Virgil Abloh, A-Cold-Wall, Matthew M. Williams, Jun Takahashi, etc. — with success. Floriane de Saint Pierre, Paris-based consulting and executive search specialist

“Perhaps instead of competing with each other, if we were to act as a kind of conglomerate, finding synergistic opportunities amongst ourselves, like brands under the umbrella of big European conglomerates do, big things could happen.” Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez, cofounders, Proenza Schouler

“There is a huge difference in regard to the audience in Paris. That is one of the plus sides for me [showing] in Paris. It is a little bit of a challenge here in New York, just making the world see that New York is as important as it is.” Thom Browne

“Fashion is evolving and so is the consumer. We’ve all become accustomed to instant gratification, and our consumers expect to have what they want, when they want it. The see-now-buy-now phenomenon in American fashion represents this impatience, and how the industry is becoming more efficient to address shoppers’ needs.” Vanessa LeFebvre, president, Lord & Taylor

“Today, more than ever before, you have to really put the fashion in front of the consumers’ eyes. You can’t wait in this retail environment for the customer to come to you. You have to find her. You [may be] finding her online, in a targeted situation, in a trunk show, in a resort — in the winter or the summer, at an event or at some sort of promotion. You can’t just sit back and wait for her to arrive. That’s key…The return of the quote-unquote trunk show is very much what’s happening in the retail world with direct contact with the consumer.” Dennis Basso

“For production, there’s a limit to how much we can produce in the U.S. with the union factories. That’s why we’ve farmed it out to Italy for sample development, and they’re closed! I’m like, ‘I have a show in three weeks!’ I used to deal with it better when I was younger, but now I have two companies. Why do I have to deal with this? I pay them. I literally have nightmares every night because of the collection and no one’s sewing anything right now!” Laura Kim, cofounder, Monse; co-creative director, Oscar de la Renta

“Maybe Europeans should change their vacation time a little bit. It’s really a disaster for us because it slows us down drastically. How can I do knitwear or shoes in August? Their factories are closed. Everything is closed in Europe. They’re all in Capri and Portugal. I think Europe will soon need to change this pattern. They could do much more business with America if we were able to buy fabric. We have to be so ready in advance. I ordered fabric today, because they delivered the wrong fabric twice. Now the factory is closed for a month. So I will have to cut something in the right color at the last moment after Labor Day when they reopen. Because no one can go to the factory to get the fabric that is waiting in a factory somewhere ready to go. That’s absurd.” Hervé Pierre

“When I started, I always felt like Darwin — it was survival of the fittest. Now, for myriad reasons, the industry, globally as well as domestically, is at saturation. I also believe that building a legacy and building a brand takes a lifetime. Even if you build something — I go back to when I wanted to get into fashion and Helmut Lang was the hottest, most important brand in the world — just look at the evolution. Helmut Lang was hitting from the highest, snobbiest fashion insider to jeans and into luxury fragrances. Now, it’s a whole different brand; I don’t think 20 years ago was the trajectory that they thought it was going to be on, nor do I think Helmut thought that it would end up as the kind of brand it evolved into. People seem to be searching right now for ‘what is the right formula’ and there is no right formula — it’s individual.” Zac Posen

“It’s a very, very, very, very difficult time. I’m not going to say it isn’t. And if people think [fashion] is the way it was, it is not. I tell that to every single young person who wants to be a designer today. Parson’s School of Design is on fire. It’s never had more people wanting to be fashion designers. I sit on their board. I said, ‘Listen, we have to look at it with a different eye. We have to train them differently. Maybe it’s not about a person, maybe it’s a group of people.’ Everything in life is changing.” Donna Karan

“[Creativity] is impacted culturally. Meaning if you’re in America, you do not get any global news. I watch the BBC News every night so I don’t just hear Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump and, ‘Live at Five: Lose 11 pounds on the summer watermelon diet.’ You get nothing here. It is so isolated.” Tom Ford

“The landscape in Europe is dominated by a handful of large, traditional luxury brands. In America, we do not nurture brands in the same way. American fashion needs to pivot; to have a long-term view focused more on longevity and sustainable brand equity. Our insatiable obsession with newness hasn’t set us up for success in terms of establishing heritage houses. The future of fashion cannot be solely a fascination with emerging talents.” Tory Burch

“I think what we have in common right now is a call to action. The landscape has shifted dramatically — some brands have embraced see now/buy now, others have moved their business to focus solely on direct-to-consumer. Personally, I believe that wholesale, specialty stores and DTC will all continue to have a place and shine because they all work in tandem to create a healthy company. But this is for every business to decide for itself, both American and worldwide. At 3.1 Phillip Lim, we define ourselves as a global brand made up of global citizens. We make decisions based on what is right for the niche we have carved out for ourselves in the industry as a whole, not just in America.” Wen Zhou, ceo, 3.1 Phillip Lim

“The consumer has changed enormously and then retail has changed. I think designers are doing exactly what they did 10 or 15 years ago. That could be one of the issues — that the consumer has changed at a much faster rate than the designer has. The consumer today is so educated and so demanding for newness. Prior to [now] it was all in a very nice, little food chain that went from fashion shows to magazines and editors…and fed down to the consumer. Magazines would say, ‘These are the 10 handbags you have to have, and the five designer outfits you have to have.’ All of that got wiped away basically because of the Internet, and because the consumer started calling the shots, not the industry. Today, in many ways, it doesn’t matter what the fashion industry says or speaks to each other about. It’s really ultimately the consumer’s decision. That’s relatively new.” Robert Burke, founder, Robert Burke Associates

“I don’t think anybody anticipated the Internet and the effect it would have on business. I don’t think anybody could have predicted the impact social media has had. Now, we’re having to deal with the impact of direct-to-consumer. The department stores couldn’t have predicted it, nor could the magazines. The traditional resources of how you would go into business has changed and so many of those businesses shifted. It was like, ‘Oh, no. What do we do?’ Another thing that happened was street culture became relevant in fashion circles. You could have a street brand do a fashion show in the system of your fashion week. And then the fact that a handbag is great, but a sneaker is almost a better proposition right now. All of these things have made it extremely difficult. Julie Gilhart, consultant

“I think we will always be strong on talent and desire. The challenge lies in addressing sustainability in a meaningful way. We cannot continue harming the planet to the extent we have been through the production of textiles and clothing. Creating more sustainable avenues of production is not even on most American fashion companies’ wish lists, let alone mission statements. We need to be focused on long-term value, quality and artistry and less on cheap, throwaway items that will only end up littering the planet. I think our industry is still largely caught up in a race to the bottom. We have to wake up.” Tracy Reese

“As a woman in this industry, I find this is where America is so behind what has happened internationally. When you look at Stella, Clare Waight Keller, Phoebe [Philo], Maria Grazia [Chiuri], Natacha Ramsey-Levi at Chloé — the number of high-profile women that get so much respect. They’re really championed. In America, it’s Phillip, Alex, Narciso, Prabal, Thakoon, Derek Lam, Altuzarra. What do you have to do as a female designer in America?” — Amy Smilovic, founder and creative director, Tibi

“I think that American fashion continues to be important. What Americans bring to our industry — it’s that Yankee ingenuity of clothes that have a realism to them that customers respond to and want to wear. I do believe that as an industry, we are very much in a moment of transformation, trying to find our place in the world of fashion capitals. Where we were once very coveted — people wanting come to New York City to see the amazing collections — somewhere along the way, the coveted quality has faded. It’s fallen from favor. I believe that a lot of the falling from favor isn’t from the lack of creativity, the lack of quality, [but] from the arduous fashion calendar that seems to bend and slip and jerk all over the city. There’s currently no central core to New York Fashion Week.” — Ken Downing, fashion director and senior vice president, Neiman Marcus

“The strengths of American fashion are access and understanding of the customer and an undying desire to create. There’s an incredible entrepreneurial spirit here and that spirit is valued. America applauds ideas, and there’s a constant appetite for newness from the customer. Its weakness is that it’s a crowded market and there are too many brands that can rise and then quickly fall. I think this shows there’s a lack of understanding of how to create and sustain longevity. The industry feels diluted sometimes because it puts so much pressure on being everything to everyone. That’s what Europe does so well: They’re specific and designers know their strengths.” — Tanya Taylor

“Timeless, basic fashion pieces like denim jeans or sneakers are coming from the United States and are must-haves all over the world. There are also influences from the American hip-hop scene, which actually created the athleisure trend.” — Klaus Ritzenhöfer, founder and owner, Apropos The Concept Store in Germany

“While at first one might be quick to think that American fashion talent is dissipating or migrating, it seems important to take stock, stack ourselves up against the other cities and give thanks for what we’ve got! Still, no other city incubates, encourages and supports rising talent the way the U.S./N.Y does. Even if the shows occur off-shore, the U.S. still has far and away the healthiest bench strength of emerging, established talent and tenured talent in the world….Whereas Europe leans on legacy brands and the power of loyalty to the brand over the designers themselves, enabling a revolving door of designers, the U.S. is a relatively reliable, proprietary and stable market. Most designers here can still boast their name on the door. #AmericasGotTalent.” — Linda Fargo

“Isn’t Carolina Herrera the quintessential American ‘fashion’ dream story — style icon, ago 40, four children, moves to New York and starts a fashion house? And three and a half decades later, [it’s a] globally recognized brand. Carolina Herrera started the company here, inspired by the opportunity to launch a house that blended the European approach to fashion — craftsmanship, couture techniques and gorgeous fabrics — with the pragmatism of American fashion and the desire to design wearable clothes for a modern woman’s lifestyle: bringing glamour to the everyday. That was 1981, but the idea, that fundamental platform, is still relevant.” — Emilie Rubinfeld, president, Carolina Herrera

“New York is an exciting, vibrant city. I always find the source of inspiration for new trends and new ideas here. For sure, the U.S. is the most developed country for the fashion e-commerce, and…is a market for quantity more than for quality. Europe has a lot to learn from how to develop a global business with a large number of customers.” — Riccardo Tortato, fashion director for men’s wear and e-commerce, Tsum

 “American fashion is great about balancing functionality with design. For me, I do have an avant-garde sensibility because I look up to the great Japanese designers, like Rei Kawakubo at Comme des Garçons and Yohji Yamamoto and Kenzo Takada. But I also really value dressing the real woman in everyday life, and I think clothing has to be practical as well as creative and artistic. A lot of great American designers, like Marc Jacobs or Proenza Schouler, do an amazing job of balancing the functionality and everyday aspect of fashion with the creativity.”  — Hanako Maeda, founder, Adeam

“American fashion, like many industries in this country, was largely built by immigrants or first-generation Americans — Oleg Cassini, Charles James, Oscar de la Renta, Carolina Herrera, DVF, Ralph Lauren and their vision of what American freedom represents in fashion. As long as we always welcome talent, no matter where they’re from, we will be diverse and produce interesting points of view.” — Gabriela Hearst

“I do think, though, that American fashion is solid. The customer has become so savvy that designers and retailers have really had to step up their game and provide fashion, styling and service to accommodate the sophistication of the end consumer. There’s a company that can cater to every niche in the market at the right price point, with the right styling, the right fit, the right this and that. Americans are very good at deciphering what women want in all different categories across the board. It’s approached very much as a business. It’s not just an art or an aesthetic.”   Mark Badgley, cofounder, Badgley Mischka

“I think that one of the biggest strengths of NYFW is its focus on products. You definitely see nice, wearable clothes on its catwalks. However, it’s not as relevant as Paris or Milan when it comes to scouting trends. At the same time, the quality of the show productions is really great.”  — Angelo Flaccavento, fashion journalist

“As a designer for an American house, I love that we can authentically reference the clothing archetypes that come from American style and that resonate around the world: the sweatshirt, the biker jacket, the T-shirt.  I think this can be a fresh alternative to some of the formality and conventions of European luxury. Coach’s roots in New York City also guide the attitude of our girl and guy. They have an effortless ease and lighthearted spirit that informs the way we approach our collections.” — Stuart Vevers, executive creative director, Coach

“American fashion is changing exponentially, through social media and the rise of style tribes to the growing awareness of environmental sustainability. We are seeing bold new designers reimagine fashion based on past and present influence, giving a multi-cultural mashup of ideas that is rewriting what it means to be American. It’s moving at such a rapid pace, sometimes it’s hard to [home] in on styles/trends — are [they] going to be here longer than a moment on Instagram?…It can be challenging to identify which of these ideas should be represented in our world and which ones might quickly expire. On the other hand, you have a larger variety of emerging brands popping up, providing a uniquely curated assortment and diverse point of view.” Ashley Petrie, merchandise director, Fred Segal

“I have remained an independent designer, which has kept me out of the politics of geography or comparison. This puts me in a unique position. My vision isn’t grounded in just one culture, one country. It’s really about the mix of inspirations from many. What I do know is, my dream was always to come to New York and become a fashion designer. New York made me who I am, I have a sentimental attachment to it. It is my home, my identity, and the birthplace of my success. I have tried my best to support the Garment Center here. Unfortunately, the difficult retail landscape and the loss of so much American manufacturing has been challenging to make product in the U.S. But the value and importance of American fashion needs to be appreciated and supported.” — Anna Sui

“I think excitement about American fashion has tempered. Partially, it goes back to having this whole crisis of who are we. We’ve become very individualized rather than working as a collective group. When I think back to when we used to show at the tents, you had a one-week New York Fashion Week. It was when it all happened, everyone would come in to see the collections and you had a lot of power as a group. Once everyone becomes individualized and does their own things, a lot of your power [diminishes].” — Lela Rose

 “In today’s market and industry, it’s hard to compare [New York, Milan and Paris] without understanding that we live in the Internet age. It’s much harder to find unique pockets of culture today than it was 20 years ago, for example. With apps like Instagram, a Parisian or Italian designer can be inspired by specific things in Los Angeles, Tokyo, Berlin, etc., all at the same time without having to even go there. Everyone is connected, which makes everything start to blend into one larger industry and scene. Every city’s fashion scene being connected makes designers draw from the zeitgeist as a whole instead of specific things in their surroundings.” — Reese Cooper

I think it would be awfully presumptuous of me to sum up the state of American fashion — I have one point of view, which is [that of] our company….I think that the term ‘American fashion’ is perhaps a bit of an anachronism, one that used to mean some things design-wise. I think American companies were known for certain things, sportswear, whatever — and everybody’s doing everything now….so the idea of American fashion is a little more amorphous. I think we as a group, we could be doing better in terms of common interests. For our company, anyway, issues like immigration and trade have forever been problems. I can’t get people here because H1B visas are taken up, by the likes of Microsoft and IBM, within a nanosecond of those visas becoming available. For me to get a qualified premiere for our sample rooms is incredibly difficult. I can find them, but to get them here is tough….The second issue [is] trade. We’re an odd duck because we manufacture about half of our stuff here in the United States and half of it in Italy. So we face the issues both as an importer and an exporter, both of talent and of goods. So it’s difficult both ways.” — Alex Bolen, ceo, Oscar de la Renta

“While I am loving some of the emerging designers coming out of New York like Rosie Assoulin, Monse, Brandon Maxwell, Gabriela Hearst as well as some of the more established brands such as Alexander Wang, who is really having his moment, I think as a whole, the American market is being overshadowed by Paris and Milan. If you look at the most influential brands at the moment you have Balenciaga, Gucci, Dior, Fendi and of course we cannot forget Off-White. It is all about branding, for now. But ask me the same question next season and my answer will likely be entirely different.” — Eda Kuloglu, chief merchandising officer, Al Tayer Group 

“Now is the time for American fashion. We’re in a transition period where streetwear and sportswear are exploding in Europe, and this is inspired by the heritage of our country. Look at what Virgil Abloh, Kanye West or Supreme are achieving. They are bringing back the power of American fashion in a very modern perspective. I think U.S. labels are no longer looking at what other regions are doing and completely embracing their sportswear roots.” — Tommy Hilfiger 

“[American fashion’s strength is that] It has a big client base (U.S. citizens, primarily). Its main weakness is a certain middle-of-the-road quality, not very adventurous, not very luxurious…Obviously, you have designers who are extremely creative and also very luxurious. But speaking generally, it’s not what American fashion is known for. From the Seventies through the beginning of the 21st century, off and on, there was a sense that New York was becoming more dynamic. Although you still have some Americans that go, ‘Oh, America has no fashion. It just did blue jeans, nothing else’….A sportswear feeling was very much associated with being modern and American. America is still producing a lot of sportswear and street style, which everybody is doing. Somehow, we’re not getting credit for it in a good way. It only becomes exciting when a European luxury brand does their version of sweatpants or running shoes, things that are primarily American. If you look at American fashion as this giant thing, then the bulk of it is not as well executed. There are definitely many that are well-executed, and also many niche Americans are the ones being copied. I think Thom Browne is fantastic. It was clear to everybody when he showed in Paris that was one of the most exciting shows that season in Paris. Even though Rodarte [and] Proenza…have decided to come back to the U.S., these are designers who are doing exciting things and the quality is very, very high. A lot of them don’t get as much credit as they would if they were French or Italian designers. Often because they are American, people are not taking them as seriously.”  Valerie Steele, director and chief curator, The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology

“I really do still feel that American fashion is still a very dominating, creative force. Obviously, I think Paris will always be held to maybe a different place, but I still think that there is such amazing talent coming out [of the U.S.], especially in New York. But it is definitely changing. Retailers have really been dominating the designers for the last couple years. I think, unfortunately, that old model where a buyer comes in and buys the product and it goes on the floor and they hope it works doesn’t really work anymore. There has to be more of a partnership, more communication. The customer is so much more involved, more than ever. We have decided to go in a different route where we got very private client-heavy. Probably at least 60 percent of our clients are private. Some of them are literally spending double what our retailers are spending. So that’s very interesting.” — Christian Siriano


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