Backstage at Thom Browne Men's Spring 2019

“One of [Americans’] weaknesses is that we’ve always seen ourselves, and possibly have been thought of internationally — the redheaded stepchild is way too harsh of a way to say it — but kind of as the homely cousin. Part of that’s because we don’t have these heritage houses that have this extremely long history. But is that a bad thing? I don’t think so. I think it makes us nimble. I think this is partially our own existential crisis of, who are we, how do we compare?

“But think of all of the amazing businesses, all the technology, all the everything that has started here in this country and has really shaped the landscape. American fashion too is kind of that upstart, entrepreneurial, trying something, doing things that answer a niche product. Also in this country, we have so many cultural touchpoints that really give a unique point of view.” — Lela Rose

“I see more tradition, more reverence and more formality in Europe. More glamour and richness. A refinement, sophistication and elegance. Meanwhile in America, there is more of a tendency to reduce, to strip back and to connect through reference. I also think that, say in Paris, it’s more about belonging to something, fitting into that world, that look. Whereas in the U.S., maybe it’s less about fitting in and more about expressing yourself: fitting in, while standing out.” — Paul Gaudio, global senior vice president of creative direction and future, Adidas

“What’s happening here in the U.S., in regards to new designers, I think is really exciting. Even though they are smaller in regards to the size of their businesses, it’s exciting that people are taking the chances and making names for themselves, starting their own companies, starting their own collections and focusing on doing it themselves as opposed to taking on what other people have started in the past.” — Thom Browne

“To me, all this ‘competition’ against ‘the Europeans’ is invented. I can see that it is frustrating to feel that the Paris season is seen as the international summit. Yet U.S. fashion in general should feel a certain triumph about taking sportswear (sneakers included) into such a forceful situation that an American influencer has become part of power brand Louis Vuitton. But in this digital age of start-ups and online purchases, is there any sense in talking about ‘American fashion’ or ‘London fashion?’ Surely it should be about individual creatives. I can’t wait to see how Riccardo Tisci, very Italian, trained in London, over a decade with Givenchy, will do at Burberry!” — Suzy Menkes, international Vogue editor

“American leisurewear, sportswear, streetwear — it’s the biggest inspiration today, when you think about it. But for me, there is no American brand at the moment that is [really] successful. All these big European brands take a bit of this heritage of America and interpret it in a way that is selling. When Isabel Marant or Saint Laurent does Americana, then it sells. This American inspiration is so successful, but for me [there aren’t any] American brands using this inspiration and being successful [with it].” — Emmanuel de Bayser, The Corner in Germany

“America is a place where entrepreneurial spirit is fostered. One can develop a startup fairly quickly. This leaves room to focus on creativity and product. One challenge would be real estate. When I look at the streets, only large chains, pharmacies and banks are opening new retail locations. The small retailer has been pushed out. In my opinion, this affects the community and the soul of the neighborhood, [plus] it can become challenging for a small designer to open a retail location in New York today.” — Gabriela Hearst

“[Fashion] feels like a much more global project. Now Tommy Hilfiger is on a world tour. Everyone kind of dabbles in everyone else’s zones. But I think to start a brand, I would still say that I couldn’t imagine — and maybe this is because I’m American — but I couldn’t imagine doing it anywhere else.” — Zoe Latta, Eckhaus Latta

““Being an American fashion brand doesn’t seem as prestigious or impressive as being a French or Italian fashion brand, it seems. All of that seems to be changing, though, as American brands are proving themselves quality-wise….American fashion has a strong presence because of everything else going on here. America is the pop-culture capital of the world. I think people here know you have to work hard and fast to get anything done. This really translates into the fashion industry in a city like New York. I believe the excitement within American fashion has increased greatly recently. When the new generation sees someone like Virgil [Abloh] achieve the Louis Vuitton job, it’s a morale boost for American fashion designers. We now know it really is possible to get that level of recognition for your craft, without interning in Paris for 20 years first. With the Internet and American designers going to Europe, we feel more included and connected than ever.” — Reese Cooper

“It’s really exciting because in the U.S., I feel like there is a lot of great support for young designers. In Japan, normally it takes at least 20 or 30 years for fashion designers to really work up the ranks and pay their dues and then go on their own.” — Hanako Maeda, Adeam

“American fashion has become hugely focused on contemporary brands. It is wearable, accessible product. Europe is still more about luxury, leather goods, couture, etc. Those brands are wonderful, beautiful tributes to fashion, but they are not as fast-paced or modern as the American contemporary market. America lacks leaders in the accessories market. Nine out of 10 women you see on the street will be in American designer clothing with a European designer bag or shoe. I think that has to do with resources.” — Stacey Bendet, Alice + Olivia

“I think American fashion is maybe struggling against European fashion right now. I think it’s been that way for a while. I don’t think American fashion is set up to compete on the luxury level. I don’t think there’s any American house that is comparable to the European luxury houses. Not one.” — James Mischka, Badgely MIschka

“I actually don’t think consumers think about it [as Europe versus the U.S.]. As a shopper, when I go to Net-a-porter’s What’s New page, I don’t really say, is that an American brand? Is that a European brand? There are brands in Copenhagen that are amazing now. I’m looking at their shows. It has become more global than it was before. Everyone has a voice now, but I do think the big names in American fashion week have disappeared. I remember when I was in college it was like Donna, Calvin. I feel like some of the big American names have recently disappeared.”  Laura Kim, Monse; co-creative director, Oscar de la Renta

“So much creative culture is being exported from the U.S. There’s no reason fashion shouldn’t be a part of that. Hollywood and American musicians dominate the global conversation and there’s no reason to believe that the same couldn’t be said of fashion if the right set of conditions would allow for that and if we were to create a new system that trumps the archaic one most American houses are currently engaged with.” — Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez, Proenza Schouler

“Generalizing, American design can still be counted on for real clothes with modern ease, accessibility, urban motifs and more contemporary offerings than our European counterparts. In contrast, and something rarely pursued and maybe missing in American design, with rare exceptions (Rodarte and Thom Browne), is fantasy and provocation, or the more aspirational dreams of fashion, which is Europe’s stock in trade. When [talking about] whether the American fashion industry can produce at the luxury level, The Row hits that mark beautifully.” — Linda Fargo, senior vice president, women’s fashion director and store presentation, Bergdorf Goodman

“The climate for measuring success in the U.S. and the message drilled into the heads of Americans is a relentless focus on commerce. So the atmosphere for experimentation and creativity are often strangled early on and the creative motivating force in fashion design is replaced with commercial motivation. Generally this means external success is measured by financial growth, not by creativity. The measures of success in Paris, Milan and London are not as purely commerce-driven at an earlier stage and there is a higher value placed on experimentation. There is also a more established track record, history and culture built around European ‘geniuses’ of fashion design that still pervades the perception of how good an American designer can be.” — Brian Phillips, Black Frame

“NYFW is not such a relevant fashion week anymore. The problem is in the quality of the merchandise and the poor creativity presented during NYFW. Milan and Paris are so intense and designers have such a high level of quality and creativity, that whatever looks great during NYFW will look so-so when you do the season’s full review after Paris Fashion Week. New York has a few names that are still big and powerful and that work really well, such as Ralph Lauren, Tom Ford, Marc Jacobs and Michael Kors. [But] if we think about American brands such as Amiri or Off-White that are new and hot, they don’t even show in New York. Also, a lot of buyers don’t even go to NYFW because lots of American brands have showrooms in Milan and Paris.” — Riccardo Tortato, director e-commerce fashion, Tsum

“Creativity does not stop at the product, but also the way they market it and communicate about it. All the new technology coming out of Silicon Valley also really helps the fashion industry in terms of the way they present fashion. When you have an idea and want to create something, to launch a brand or company, say, it’s also much easier to make it happen in the U.S. compared to Europe, which is really important. It’s a key strength. In terms of weaknesses, I would say that U.S. retail today doesn’t embody or capture the dynamism and creativity of American fashion. Neither do the New York Fashion weeks.” — Jennifer Cuvillier, style director, Le Bon Marché

“I’ve worked with fashion brands from the influencer side, and I’ve had the opportunity to create my own line, so I can safely say that American fashion is as open, individualistic and inclusive as the consumer it has in mind. With the rise of social media, e-commerce, fast fashion, runway live-streams and streetwear culture, American fashion is more accessible and open to interpretation than ever. I think our strength is in our willingness to transform, reinvent and collaborate. A weakness can be that rather than having a stamp of identity, we’re more chameleons to our influences.” — Jenn Im, influencer

“American designers are just paranoid that Europeans are biased against them, when, in fact, much of ‘cool’ European style is a copy of classic American style.” — Eric Wilson, fashion news director, InStyle Magazine

“Both for our company and for Japanese retail overall, American fashion remains extremely important, but the recent trend is that European fashion — especially in terms of women’s fashion — is slightly stronger. Compared with that of Paris, Milan and London, American fashion is less artistic, less philosophical. It’s difficult to sense a pride in the skill or craftsmanship. But it is recognized for its excellence in making everyday products.” — Yumiko Watari, fashion director, Sogo & Seibu in Japan

“The fashion industry and media kind of idolizes and puts too much stock into what European designers are doing. We’re not starting to champion the great talent here from the college level or high school level. We’re waiting until they get some sort of European acceptance, or some sort of celebrity acceptance before we champion them. That’s kind of what’s happening with me. I’ve been doing this for 18 years and I’ve never been championed by any of these magazines or anything like that. But as soon as celebrities embrace the brand, and as soon as I had a Reebok deal and all of these other things, [the American fashion industry accepted me]. It’s too little, too late. There was ample opportunity for the American fashion industry and the gatekeepers to mentor me and help me get there.” — Kerby Jean-Raymond, Pyer Moss

“I wonder why there aren’t more ground-breaking ‘creative’ brands coming out of the U.S. since it’s such an incredibly innovative country. It’s hard to compare the U.S. to the European fashion capitols likes Paris and Milan, since these cultures are densely rich in fashion history. The populations are all interested in fashion and it’s ingrained in their psyche to be aware of fashion trends, to dress up and take huge pride in their physical appearance. I don’t believe that fashion even factors as a thought in many American cities or states. Sure, in cities like Los Angeles and New York City, consumers love fashion — but these are just two cities in a vast country of hundreds of millions whose priorities lie elsewhere.” Eva Galambos, director and buyer of Parlour X, Australia

“There is no difference to how we buy American brands or other brands. We always look for brands that have a unique point of view and can bring something different to our customer. What we like in American brands is the easy, chic sportswear. Brands like The Row, Gabriela Hearst and Oscar de la Renta do especially well for us.” — Elizabeth von der Goltz, global buying director, Net-a-porter

“On the contrary I think the fashion community is very supportive of American fashion, and again I think this confirms where a brand or designer is from is not relevant to their creativity. Take Virgil Abloh. He is an American designer who has a widely successful company based in Milan and designs for one of the most powerful French fashion houses, and his designs are very much influenced by American culture. I think more than ever, the lines are blurred with where designers are from and based — the fashion industry is very much a global community these days.” — Tiffany Hsu, fashion buying director,

“American fashion is way more pop culture-influenced than European fashion, and definitely more accessible than Asian fashion. Designers here in the States make just as amazing clothing as in other countries, but in America you can find luxury pieces (even though they may be from an old collection) at a local department store.” — Camila Coelho, influencer

“I think there probably is some underlying bias, but I think Virgil Abloh is taking care of that for us.” — Stellene Volandes, editor in chief, Town & Country


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