BY TAYLOR HARRIS
PHOTOGRAPHER MENELIK PURYEAR
STYLING DAVID THIELEBEULE
HAIR MICHAEL DAVID WARREN
MAKEUP TAMI EL SOMBATI
PROP STYLING ENOCH CHOI
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 are you?
GG: I appreciate your honesty.
SERGIO: You know what? I told my boyfriend last night, I said, “I’ve been complaining mentally because I don’t allow myself to complain out of my mouth.” But then I sat back and thought, “You know what? You need to stop complaining because two years ago you would’ve been dying to have the problems that you have now.” Because on top of the show, we have the Met Gala. So I’m grateful—grateful and tired!
GG: How has the pandemic shifted your perspective in terms of how you see your business?
SERGIO: I think the pandemic offered to fashion an opportunity for us to write our own story and to allow our business to run how we want our business to run—how you deliver, how you produce your collections, when you produce your collections. I think that’s opened the door for people to be more allowed to do that.
GG: There’s a push-pull because in some ways fashion is a very traditional business, but it’s filled with forward-thinkers.
SERGIO: Right, and it’s never a perfect science. We talked during COVID and said, “Oh, we’re not going to push for six collections a year anymore.” Now we’re right back at pushing for six collections again. But at least we feel we’re more empowered now to write our own stories going forward.
GG: Did you find it difficult to get inspired during the pandemic?
SERGIO: No, I think for me it didn’t stifle my creativity. It actually evoked it. I feel like when you’re a creative person, solitude invokes creativity. At least for me it does. And the crazy things I that I had on inspiration for the collection that kind of shifted after we did Michelle Obama [attending the 2021 inauguration]. We had a great response, so it was like, OK, this is what people want from me. So I had to kind of infuse a lot more dressy pieces into the collection than I originally had.
GG: Is that what you’re feeling like? That women want to get dressed up again?
SERGIO: I feel like women are tired of wearing pajamas. Even if they’re going to sit at home, they’re going to get dressed because they’re tired of looking sloppy. And I think women are craving some type of experience. I have friends who dress up exceptionally well to go to a basic dinner.
GG: So let’s talk about NYFW. Why did you think showing in person was important to do right now? What about that experience can’t translate to Instagram or livestream?
SERGIO: I think the live show experience is so different because… it’s like the difference between going to church and watching church on TV. You can’t feel the experience as well as you do when you’re there and you’re feeling the energy and the excitement.
And I mean, I remember coming up in design school in the early 2000s; it was like the golden age of fashion. There was so much money in fashion and the shows were over the top. You could tell when you watched them. Every model at every show was like a supermodel. It was an era of decadence and that was when I was studying in school. So when I watched shows, it inspired me like, “God, I can’t wait to do a show like that one day.”