When it comes to capital ‘F’ fashion, conventional wisdom says there’s only ever been Paris. But New York Fashion Week has us waxing patriotic. Say “bonjour” to the American fashion moment.
NYFW Spring 2014
In American Fashion
Ah Paris. The creator of Couture; the city muse of Balmain, Balenciaga and Chanel; the urban outpost of gilded Versailles; the centuries’ home of artists, royals and rebels alike; the very creator of the word chic itself. Paris invented Fashion and has simply always held a level of fashion legitimacy so strong that other cities have often taken specialty back-seats just to keep pace. Fine, London can be the hippest design spot on any continent; Milan can offer the best fabrication on Earth; And New York can be the haute-est casual clothes market in the world.
None of these has ever had the raw fashion credibility of Paris. Just ask Kanye West.
But something democratic is happening in fashion. The old rules are getting a run for their money. Bloggers are sitting side-by-side with editors; self-taught designers are racking up critical reviews and profits; technology is helping fashionistas compare prices before they buy; plus size shoppers are e-rioting for more choice; models of color are tweet-protesting casting discrimination; DIY-ers are shrugging off brands and pinning their way to celebrity status; Mid-western girls are getting a Phillip Lim fix at their suburban Target store.
Yes, something democratic is happening in fashion and the good old U.S. of A. is right in the middle of it all. From Nasty Gal to the Man Repeller to the Olsen Twins, American fashion is throwing out all the rules.
At 8 days and 80+ designer collections, the latest New York Fashion Week was a showing more diverse than any in the world. No matter where in that world they were actually born, designer names like de la Renta, Beckham, Wang, Margiela, Gurung, Packham, Reese and Minkoff all became part of the American fashion family. From reality show stars and pop singers to Parsons-trained fashion whiz kids and college dropouts, in New York it seems you could hail from anywhere and have front row success. Ah, the power of American optimism.
But don’t let the poetry fool you. This American dream has some serious fashion chops. Think only Milan can do tailoring? Only London can do minimalism? Only Paris can do couture? Newsflash: New York can do all three and everything in between. Simply scan the presentations of Proenza Schouler, Rachel Comey, Helmut Lang, Altuzarra or The Row for a dose of what American fashion means now. Any of these shows could have happened anywhere in the world, but they happened in New York City.
The biggest hint that American fashion might be on a global run: New York designer Alexander Wang’s appointment last December to head up Balenciaga. Talk about an American in Paris! That surely sent some smiles and maybe more shivers throughout the Parisian fashion elite. Pressure aside, Wang is paving a bridge between the old and the new, proving American fashion can compete with the best in the world.
And, remember that Democratic thing? Fresh from conquering the runways, American fashion designers now have a chance to write history. Yes, we’re talking plus size American fashion: Make more options for more people and prove that the plucky American spirit can create kick-ass fashion for all.
We’re loving this American fashion moment.
Come back anytime, Kanye.
© 2013 ThirdGen Media, LLC dba TheRunway+ (TheRunwayPlus.com)
Sources / Photo Credits
“The Transformer” by Christopher Bagley, W Magazine August 2013 p 101 – 104, “Paris Match” by Mark Holgate, Vogue Magazine July 2013 p 126 -129, Victoria Beckham by Featureflash / Shutterstock.com, Kanye West by Miro Vrlik Photography / Shutterstock.com, Anna Wintour and Marc Jacobs by lev radin / Shutterstock.com