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Monday, March 20, 2023

Inside the youth earthquake redefining American fashion – World Water Day

Designers from different corners of social media came together on Monday night, their attendance and nominations at this year’s CFDA Fashion Awards seen as the final mark of the insurgency on traditional fashion channels.

There is a new wave of designers now defining American fashion. Some have described it as an “era,” a “changing of the guard” or, more diplomatically, a “new energy,” reflecting a post-COVID-19 America where independent and creative thinkers are “excited by the tenacity of being plus a scammer. There’s an all-engines-on mentality,” said Raúl López, newly named CFDA Accessories Designer of the Year, founder of Luar.

For the first time in a long time, American fashion is full of emotion. In the room on Monday night, look around the corner and see Emily Adams Bode Aujla, whose brand of American and flea-market opulence has influenced much of the Etsy creator community; Across the room, LaQuan Smith has stepped up his sultry new-age take on the form of Lenny Kravitz, dressing the rock star in velvet, leather and feathers. And Elena Vélez was a stand-in for a real-life goth dress, in a deconstructed muslin-colored dress and black lipstick.

If that sounds like a random group, you’d be right: that’s the point of new american fashion. That wide breadth is representative of myriad origins, born of a generation that grew up rooted in Internet culture. They spent hours combing the niche corners of the digital world, coming across aesthetic and ideological micro-communities that now influence their many and varied brands.

“It’s the Wild West around here,” Puppet and Puppet designer Carly Mark, a former concept artist who was nominated in the emerging designer category, said of the American landscape.

Where some designers draw inspiration from post-emo malaise (Cowgirl) or the bridge between Afro-Caribbean culture and early 2000s excess (Theophilio), Mark seeks to create a dialogue between quirky, nihilistic themes and fashion, which translates into sculptures, often extravagant. clothing.

“It’s almost as if the pandemic was a controlled wildfire and out of that fire came all new growth,” he added of the explosion of new talent.

In a year when the class of nominees was among the youngest in CFDA history, a publicist for numerous emerging designers who attended the awards event posted on Instagram that she felt she was leaving her “children.”

The list of brands helping to define American fashion right now is extensive. In addition to CFDA nominees like Luar, Bode, Telfar, Brandon Blackwood, Puppets and Puppets, LaQuan Smith, Willy Chavarria, and Christopher John Rogers, there are many others: SC103, ERL, Commission, Theophilio, Denim Tears, Interior, Connor McKnight, Judy Turner and Black Boy Knits, all unafraid to represent something outside the bounds of traditional fashion structures. Some of them were founded more than a decade ago, but they have come into the spotlight of the general public in the last couple of years.

While most of its businesses remain small compared to, say, Ralph Lauren, the group’s combined clout presents great potential for the future: a diversified fashion industry that thrives in the online space and speaks to a loyal community of supporters.

“I feel like with the internet now, kids in Europe say, ‘These designers are the ones who represent American fashion,’” Lopez said.

The slew of new labels that emerged post-COVID-19 hasn’t been seen in New York since the years after 9/11, when an outcropping of talent like Proenza Schouler, Derek Lam, Libertine, Doo-Ri Chung and Behnaz Sarafpour, among others, leading to the establishment of the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund in 2003.

“It was kind of a similar vibe: coming back from a dark time and a difficult time for a lot of people,” Lázaro Hernández of Proenza Schouler said at Monday’s awards.

“[When we started] It was obviously a different moment in time, but I think the fights are the same. Trying to get your brand off the ground is hard. The obstacles are the same, but I think the way to do it is different,” Hernández said.

Social networks, of course, have been the main tool for aid even the playing field of success among today’s big houses and young upstarts. López believes the pandemic helped speed that up. “Everyone had to use the Internet for two years; In a way, it was a gift to a lot of young designers who now finally have a voice in the fashion community,” she said.

“You open your phone now and you see all the emerging brands and the subculture brands, you’re not looking at big American heritage brands, they’ve kind of faded into the back. When you open your phone, you see me and you see us,” she added.

While Lopez founded his brand in 2012 after co-founding Hood by Air, it’s only in the past two years that he’s begun to receive broader recognition, blending the online culture and business strategies he observed from bigger brands like Michael Kors to launch his own “It” bag in 2021. .

Brandon Blackwood, who rose to viral fame in 2020 with a democratically priced tote bag that proclaimed “End Systemic Racism,” also knows a thing or two about social media. He has developed an emotional bond with his fans and online shoppers, whom he calls “my cousins.”

“I’m very community driven, everyone has fostered their own following who really care about what they’re doing – it’s more than just the pieces we make, we’re creating stories,” said the nominated designer. While some of this year’s nominees are more inventive in their approach, Blackwood has stood out for going after the broader commercial market. He arrived at the CFDA in a custom-made Schiaparelli couture suit; clearly, his strategy is working.

“Diana Vreeland coined the term Youthquake in the 1960s, and the same can be said for the current landscape of American fashion. The last few seasons of New York Fashion Week focused on discovery… The post-COVID-19 group of designers, while facing the challenges of a supply chain and retail closure, had the opportunity to focus on creativity and ideas,” said the CFDA executive director. Officer Steven Kolb.

“We all come from such disparate identities, everyone comes with a story about where they’re from and then what they want to see in the world,” Elena Vélez, Emerging Designer of the Year, said of the diversity of ideas. and communities represented.

“tail [Chavarria] he does a great job of bringing his Chicano culture to his work. And I love to think that I am a champion in recontextualizing regional crafts. There are so many things that you can try or talk about, or bring into your life in different ways. It’s fun,” Velez added.

But in this competitive economic climate, the new generation has learned one thing: strength is in numbers. This crop of designers has broken with tradition by leaning on one another for the good of community and support. “We all hang out at the same parties and cheer each other on, whereas the older community is maybe more of a clique,” ​​Lopez said. “There is room for all of us, what I do is not what Brandon does or what Telfar does, you can buy our three bags, just like you can have Gucci, Fendi and Prada.”

Blackwood, who said her best-selling bags after the pandemic were laden with rhinestones, said: “A new brand will appear much more slowly than several. It allows us to band together, it pushes us all forward.”

The upper echelons of the fashion industry, which in pre-pandemic times had been slow to adapt to cultural changes at the hands of social media and technology, are racing to catch up. Stores like Bergdorf Goodman, Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue, now competing with online giants like Ssense and Mytheresa, are in a Pac-Man-like frenzy to snap up all the new brands. But the labels, many of which have strong direct-to-consumer sales, have far more cards than ever before, and they are rejecting exclusivity terms and requiring order deposits to protect their business.

“This is a new era and we have to accept it,” said designer Sergio Hudson. “We are on a mission to put American fashion back on the map the way it used to be. We want to show in New York and entertain people. We want that energy here.”

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