NPR’s Ailsa Chang talks to Vogue Business’s Christina Binkley about the state of American fashion and whether New York Fashion Week is still the main stage for American designers.
AILSA CHANG, HOST:
To know what to wear in the fall, the fashion world turns to New York Fashion Week, which only began on Sunday. Of course it looks a little different this year. Not only will events be almost entirely digital again, but many of the fashion world’s superstars won’t be attending either. Christina Binkley, editor-in-chief of Vogue Business, explains what this could mean for the future impact of New York Fashion Week and the state of American fashion.
CHRISTINA BINKLEY: I’m happy to be here.
CHANG: Nice to have you. First, can you explain what role New York Fashion Week normally plays in the world of American fashion?
BINKLEY: Yes, normally, as in previous years, the idea of New York Fashion Week and those that follow in London, Milan and Paris is to present the new collections by high-level designers. It used to be for retailers and, with the advent of social media, it was direct for consumers too.
CHANG: Well, how would you say that the pandemic specifically affected fast fashion?
BINKLEY: To be honest, we’ll see how it comes out, but I think it was a real killer. Consumer behavior this year – I mean, we went home and moved away from fashion. And of course, fast fashion feeds on people who constantly buy new clothes and then want to throw them away …
BINKLEY: … which wasn’t like this this year. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I wear the same pair of sweats for three or four days in a row.
CHANG: Confession – I’m wearing the same pants for the third day in a row this week.
BINKLEY: (Laughter) Ta there – and isn’t it wonderful?
CHANG: (laughter) That’s it. I feel so good right now.
BINKLEY: Yeah. This is a really important point that you are comfortable now. We like some of it. And that says …
BINKLEY: … Something about where we’re going.
CHANG: Yeah. Well, that leads me to the question of whether designers are rethinking what workwear looks like. If we all love to laze around in yoga pants, t-shirts and sweatshirts, will office wear look very different next year?
BINKLEY: It’s a big change, but not as big as it would have been if we’d dressed like people did in 1965, for example, right? We already wore streetwear in the office. Jeans are normal in most offices. So it’s not a crazy jump, but I don’t think we’re going to return completely.
CHANG: That’s actually very comforting (laughter). How will all of this affect the role of New York Fashion Week as the main stage for American fashion as events have shifted more and more online and designers decided against it?
BINKLEY: I think it’s a little messy right now, to be honest. For one, they made a decision weeks ago – Tom Ford is the new head of the CFDA, a kind of trading group that oversees US fashion. And they changed it. They no longer call it New York Fashion Week. They call it the American collections. This is a sign that they are realizing that this idea of a week where everyone goes to a city and consumes fashion and orders fashion is no longer appropriate.
Eckhaus Latta, an American fashion brand based between New York and Los Angeles, has decided to show it on March 2nd this year. Well, this is Paris Fashion Week. They are one of many brands that only do it when it makes sense to them, as opposed to …
BINKLEY: … prescribed times.
CHANG: Well, overall, what’s the health of the American fashion industry right now?
BINKLEY: When you start hearing companies say, Oh, we think we’re doing pretty well. Our earnings are only down 25% which shows that there is a lot of pain out there.
BINKLEY: But I see something and I think that’s really important. A lot of the brands I’m talking about have halved the size of their collections. And I don’t know anyone who doesn’t think that’s good. We know too much fashion is made there. We don’t need a black turtleneck from every brand.
BINKLEY: So drill into what you do. When we teach branding in MBA programs, we tell people to do what they are really good at, and not try to do everything. And I think we’re seeing more of this now as brands try to survive. So ultimately, this can be a really good thing.
CHANG: Christina Binkley, Editor-in-Chief at Vogue Business, thank you for joining us today. That was fun.
BINKLEY: It’s been a pleasure.
(SOUNDBITE BY LUPE FIASCOS “KICK, PUSH”)
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