BY TAYLOR HARRIS
PHOTOGRAPHED MENELIK PURYEAR
STYLING DAVID THIELEBEULE
MAKEUP KARAN FRANJOLA
The shows will go on.
It’s the decree of the IMG Alliance, an initiative banding together 11 American designers in a collective pledge to show at New York Fashion Week for the next three seasons. “We’re rebuilding the bedrock of New York Fashion Week,” Noah Kozlowski, director of designer relations for IMG, tells Grazia USA. “In partnering with these designers through 2022, we’re safely demonstrating the resilience and artistry of American fashion on a global stage.”
In exchange for their commitment, each of the participating designers will receive funding from IMG to help finance their shows. “The designers who are showing here are, for the most part, independent and don’t have the scale and level of support that some of their counterparts in Europe have,” Kozlowski continued. “So, this initiative came about very organically, out of countless conversations we’ve been having with designers over the past several months.”
Pre-pandemic, there were countless conversations of a different nature: regarding the relevance and ROI of the shows, the breakneck pace of the fashion calendar, the implications—environmental and otherwise—of a six-collections-per-year output, the sheer volume of stuff created in the name of newness. Then, the pandemic hit and an industry often pushed into hyperspeed was stopped dead in its tracks.
Nearly two years later, we’re picking up speed but how it resumes in earnest remains to be seen. For insight, we spoke with those who have their eyes on the horizon: six designers taking part in fashion’s great Reconstruction.
Grazia Gazette: How is the collection coming along?
JASON: It’s starting to shape up. I mean, all the action really happens in the last two weeks. We started the collection in May, and until recently it was so much about fabric research, working with print artists, working with different mills…. And because we haven’t been able to go to Italy, we didn’t even really travel this year, so we have a lot of extra time.
GG: Do you miss traveling? Did you mind being cooped up during the quarantine?
JASON: No, I honestly didn’t mind. I usually have such a pressure to travel, so I was very happy staying put.
GG: Were there other things you couldn’t do in terms of producing the collection? What is it like developing one during a pandemic?
JASON: In the past year, I’ve had to go back to my roots. I had to be much more hands-on. It was really nice, actually. It reminded me of when I started in fashion in 2007. It was like, just me. I’m lucky now to have a team around me now, but I think this past year has really taught us to do more with less. And for me, it was very therapeutic. I really enjoyed getting scrappy again and just getting my hands dirty. In some ways, I would say 2020 and 2021, I felt like I was in startup mode again.
GG: You showed last September and again in February. Why did you feel it was important to have live, in-person shows?
JASON: We all felt like it was very important for New York Fashion Week to continue to exist. And even though there were very few people showing the last two seasons, it was really important for us to keep the excitement of American fashion alive.
GG: How did you stimulate yourself creatively when we were in lockdown?
JASON: I started finding inspiration in other things. I started cooking a lot. I actually cooked every single day for a period of time. And I’ve always loved it, but I almost never have three or four hours at night to make something. But it was definitely a creative outlet. And I would just do Houseparty every night when I was cooking. I remember Ivan Bart from IMG was calling me on it and then I invited Carolyn Murphy to join and I just leave the phone on and cook. It was like a 2020 dinner party.
I also found myself on social media more. I’m collaborating with this artist Cara Marie Piazza this season after I found her work on Instagram. She dyes fabric using natural dyes and flowers. And I found her work to be amazing. So, it’s funny how many untraditional ways we can find inspiration when you can’t travel or go to museums, or even go to the Strand. I just moved and the Strand is around the corner from my house and I just love it. But for a period of time it was closed, so it goes to show that there’s inspiration to be had anywhere if you can think outside the box.
GG: Have you noticed women dressing differently now than they did pre-pandemic? Do you think there’s a greater appreciation for getting dressed up?
JASON: I think people appreciate quality versus quantity more than ever. In the beginning of the pandemic, we were all doing the same thing. A lot of people did home improvement, a lot of people cleaned out their closet and really reevaluated what they need and what they don’t. And at a time when we were living in a world where there was a shortage of toilet paper and hand sanitizer, it really does make you appreciate living with less. And so I think going forward it’s about more thoughtful dressing and buying things that mean more to the customer than something that’s just a novelty for a season. I think it’s going to be a value that’s being renewed now more than ever.
GG: The idea of being more intentional and slowing down also translates to how clothes are produced—certainly the cadence of the fashion cycle and the sheer volume of stuff is something we’re all rethinking. Do you think the breakneck pace of fashion is a thing of the past?
JASON: I’ve never really been a designer who made trend-driven clothes, clothes of the season. My ethos has always been about timelessness and having something that could stand the test of time. And to me, sometimes fashion goes too quickly, especially now when there’s a new trend almost every day. It’s not like the way it was, where there’s like one trend a season. Now it’s a much more noisy world today through social media. And I think being able to do things on your own terms and at your own speed and having integrity is more important than ever before.
GG: We shot you in your new home—I can’t believe you moved during COVID-19!—with Sasha Pivovarova. What about her do you find so inspiring?
She’s as beautiful today as the day she started and, more importantly, she’s genuinely a great person. There’s just something about her; she makes clothes come alive.