BY TAYLOR HARRIS
PHOTOGRAPHER MENELIK PURYEAR
STYLING DAVID THIELEBEULE
MAKEUP KARAN FRANJOLA
PROP STYLING CARRIE ASHLEY HILL
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? Where are you in the process of putting the show together?
LAURA KIM: We’re planning the music and casting at the moment.
FERNANDO GARCIA: And editing. We’re focusing on what is needed to be completed. Creating the story with both the music and casting is my favorite part—it’s like a little movie coming to life.
GG: I imagine you began conceptualizing and developing this collection when things were much worse in terms of the pandemic (pre-vaccine, etc.). Tell me about the mechanics of putting together a collection in a pandemic. Did the design studio meet over Zoom for a period of time? What was it like sourcing/working with overseas vendors?
LAURA: Fernando and I traveled a lot pre-pandemic, so we kind of already know how to work apart from each other. And our team is very used to working overseas without physically meeting.
GG: How did the pandemic hinder or help your inspiration? Did you find it difficult to feel creative?
FERNANDO: One silver lining for us was the ability to breathe after a very travel-crazed and hectic five years doing both brands.
LAURA: It was some very much-needed time. It allowed me to actually fall in love with what I do again, to fall in love with fashion like I did when I was 16. I also really loved having some time to myself. I’ve been working nonstop for the last 20 years!
FERNANDO: Same. Luckily, I invested in this Robert Stilin couch right before the pandemic hit. It is truly my favorite thing in the world. I have been basically living on it, entertaining my close friends and working from home.
GG: You were among the few designers who showed your Fall collection in person. Why do you think live, in-person shows are so important? What is it about that experience that can’t translate to Instagram or livestream?
LAURA: It’s the experience, the music, the environment created by the guests, the movement of the clothes….
FERNANDO: The moment feels more real. Retouching and perfect lighting can sometimes take you away from reality. With a show, the music, the sound of the fabric moving… you belong to that moment and you form a stronger connection with the clothes.
GG: From what you’ve noticed on the street, are people dressing differently than they did pre-pandemic? Are you?
LAURA: Speaking for myself, I am dying to dress up.
FERNANDO: Laura has never been more excited to wear clothes than in the past six months.
LAURA: It’s true!
FERNANDO: I think there’s a real need to feel and look good after the year we’ve all experienced.
LAURA: I will say, I do go to the gym in bike shorts and a sports bra. And I will throw on a jacket and go to the office after. I would have never done that pre-pandemic.
GG: Early on in lockdown, when we all really couldn’t leave our homes, most of us reached for sweatpants and slippers. What was the piece of clothing or footwear you found yourself wearing again and again?
LAURA: APL sneakers.
FERNANDO: James Perse T-shirts.
GG: The past 18 months have allowed us all to pause in some form, and reassess. How has the pandemic shifted your perspective in terms of your work?
LAURA: We’re more careful about what we spend, since the future is so uncertain. We’re also really paying attention to the change in our client needs.
FERNANDO: Designing the same thing we used to two years ago feels like ten years ago now. Adapting to what people are connecting to today is very important. It’s constantly changing, and we need to keep up. As Oscar [de la Renta] would say, “You rest, you rust!”
GG: Certainly, cadence and output are something everyone in the industry has rethought during this time. Is the breakneck pace of fashion—with six collections a year—a relic of the past?
LAURA: We’ve reduced the size of the collection—and I think we’ll keep it that way—but having multiple collections is so important. The clients want fresh products often. What we really need to address going forward is the markdown system.
GG: Complete this sentence: the future of American fashion is…
FERNANDO: Evolving at a faster rate than ever before.
LAURA: Anything anyone can dream of. This country stands for freedom of expression.
GG: Do you have any exciting postshow plans? A holiday perhaps?
LAURA: No, we’re all work, work, work until Christmas.
FERNANDO: I guess that means I have to cancel my plans. No Disney World for me!