What’s Wrong with American Fashion

So Fashion Week, just about everywhere, is over. Copenhagen, Berlin, New York, London, Milan, Paris, Moscow, Tokyo, and Seoul Fashion Weeks; they’ve all come and gone. And now the bloggers, and the editors and all Snapchat starlets are just about done writing, shooting, and chatting about the collections, and the events, and must-haves, and the missteps too. Now what?

Now, everyone goes back to normal. Normal people go back to normal. Everyone goes back to buying the pieces they like to buy (or not, some people actually save money and live on a budget) choosing the things that best fits their lives, and not really worrying about the runways for another four months. Except, the “American Fashion Industry” people. Those people are busying themselves reviewing, dissecting, rethinking, crowd sourcing, and generally just obsessing over what exactly is going wrong in American fashion. This season, even the all mighty CFDA ( Council of Fashion Designers of America)got into the act, hiring the ultra- prestigious Boston Consulting Group to do a case study on the New York Fall 2016 collections to determine “The Future of New York Fashion Week.”

And what did the ultra-prestigious Boston Consulting Group find? Nothing really, or at least no new information. They found that “week” is too long, and that technology is making the live showing obsolete because too many people “get” to see the pieces too long before they are in the stores, and finally that fast fashion is taking a bite out of the high-end market because all of us serfs who can only afford H&M might actually have access to knock-offs before the wealthy class has the original pieces in hand.

None of this is new information. Technology and all of its ‘apps’ have been exposing runway shows to the masses for years, (and for the record, a lot of the ‘exposing’ is done by editors-yes editors- sitting in the front row with their phones and iPads at full attention.) Since the dawn of Zara, H&M and Forever 21, people have been claiming that the knock-of dampen the elite-allure of high end designer pieces (consider me rolling my eyes at that one, No one who has ever tried on a designer piece thinks it looks or feels like something from Forever 21!)

So if none of these things are new what is wrong with American Fashion?

It is the designers. Oh this will make me unpopular, or it would, if anyone actually read my medium, and had the attention span to get this far into the story. I think it is the designers that are in the wrong. Not all of them, there are a small handful of really great American designers, but most who show in New York have gone a stray. They’ve forgotten how to be creative, they’ve forgotten how to be interesting, and they’ve forgotten that more than one ‘prototype’ of a customer exists.

That last part is really important; and it is the biggest contrast between the collections in New York, and what I’ve seen over the last 4 years covering the shows in both Tokyo and Copenhagen in addition to New York. In both Tokyo and Copenhagen ‘the customer’ is always clearly defined, and varies. The customer varies! In Tokyo In-Process by Hall Ohara and Alice Auaa are two very different brands for very different customers. And in Copenhagen Nicholas Nybro and Freya Dalsjo could not be more dissimilar.

But what is going on in America? Why does every label, except for that small handful of creative designers, churn out collection after collection that always looks similar and why is it when a new idea does come along (ie. “streetwear inspired”) every single brand jumps on the bandwagon and stays on the band wagon for multiple seasons. Where’s the innovation, where are the new ideas, where is the creativity, where is the joy in design?

There is so little joy left in American fashion. And you can blame the bloggers (it is always the bloggers fault) or the buyers (the traditional scapegoat), or the short attention spans of the customers (a ‘new’ problem we are hearing a lot about.) But in the end it is up to the designers to inspire, allure, captivate and you know, DESIGN.

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