Fashion is here to help make people look very important. If they have good taste and choose what suits them, I give them options on how they can do that. It’s always sexy, and it’s always with the same result: making women look fantastic. —Vivienne Westwood
New York fashion is different from what we see in the other three fashion capitals, London, Milan, and Paris. Fashion here doesn’t have 150-year-old brands with house aesthetics that can’t be breached. New York fashion tends to run more current, more realistic, more “street,” and more accessible. Yes, we have some designers who make lovely red-carpet gowns. We also have a handful that are very experimental. For the most part, though, New York designers like to keep it real with collections that run from casual daywear to luxurious eveningwear with something for just about everyone.
That “something for everyone” approach may have gotten American fashion into trouble, though. A recent article in Fast Company explores how major American brands such as Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren have lost their luster. Speculation in the article runs along the lines that the labels spread themselves too thin, discounted too much. In trying to be everything to everyone, they risk becoming nothing.
Business of Fashion questions whether Tommy Hilfiger’s partnership with model Gigi Hadid was enough to revive a brand that’s no longer cool. Meanwhile, Ralph Lauren announced this morning they’re moving to the popular see-now, buy-now concept. What we’re actually seeing on the runway, though, is that New York brands are being much sexier.
Mentioning The Unmentionables
I’ve mentioned multiple times this past week in our reviews on Pattern that we’re seeing a lot of bras on the runway this season. While that’s not too unusual for brands such as Desigual, and certainly understandable for labels such as Chromat, we’re not as accustomed to seeing them from designers such as Jill Stuart, Altuzarra, and Jason Wu. Victoria Beckham even designed her entire collection around the bra concept.
Then, we’re seeing a lot more sheer this season. Sheer has been a normal part of European design for several seasons. American designers have tended to stay away, though, because many community decency laws would prohibit them being worn without a camisole or something else underneath. However, as I’m typing this, I just finished watching a Very Wang show in which half the collection was sheer, and not necessarily in the most modest of ways. We’ve seen a tremendous amount more sheer this season than ever before.
Some are blaming the exhibitionism encouraged by photo-sharing sites such as Instagram. While almost all the sites prohibit outright nudity, the closer one gets to exposing everything the more one’s list of followers increases. More followers mean more sponsorships so seeing models in their underwear is a relatively normal occurrence. Fashion designers would seem to be merely following that trend and taking the look to the street. The question is, are the streets ready for the look?
Will It Play In Indy?
With all these new, sexy looks dominating the runways, the question becomes one of whether Indiana women are interested in wearing these clothes, will they be able to find them in local stores, and if they do, what are the social and legal implications? Here’s where I would like to start a serious dialog because, quite honestly, I’m not sure of the answers. I would like to think that people can wear whatever they want and not have to worry about it. We all know that’s not the reality of the situation, though.
I do know that some buyers for local department stores stay away from current season clothing in part to give people here some time to become comfortable with what is being worn on the coast. As they see their favorite celebrities dressing a certain way, Midwestern shoppers then become more interested in mimicking those styles. However, that process takes a while, As a result, some stores routinely stock fashion that is off by a season or two. Not everyone is that way, though. Fast fashion stores such as H&M are more likely to duplicate whatever is selling best on the two coasts.
The Midwest has a well-deserved reputation for dressing more conservatively. Even as people see their favorite celebrities dress certain ways, is that enough to convince people to cross social barriers that have existed for generations? Are women okay with wearing a light jacket open with nothing under it but a bra? Or consider the low-plunging hoodies shown at DKNY. Are local gyms likely to be tolerant of women wearing sports gear that is intentionally sexy? There are a lot of open questions that probably need to be answered.
Let’s Start Talking
These are almost all spring/summer looks that are doing the boundary pushing. Designers doing current season are keeping people bundled up so the issues are not too pressing. We have time to talk. I would love to see Indianapolis be a safe place for people to wear anything, anytime. For that to happen, though, we all need to be talking with each other. Perhaps Polina can help us start a conversation with city officials so everyone is clear on exactly what is legal without getting into trouble. I also wouldn’t mind seeing a conversation between shop owners and store buyers as to what their criteria might be for stocking new fashion this next spring.
There is a lot of really great fashion coming up for this spring/summer. Why should those opportunities be limited only to those who live on either coast? And as Indianapolis continues to draw ever-growing numbers of people here for conventions and trade shows, we increase the likelihood that people visiting will have some of these more forward-thinking styles in their suitcases. How will the city respond to them?
Watching fashion shows is a lot of fun, but ultimately I want to see people actually wearing some version of what I see on the runway. Are you ready Indy? Here comes the sexiest fashion we’ve seen!