Masks. Sanitation stations. Socially distanced seating. Backyard runway. Suspended catwalk across the pool.
That is how Christian Siriano reimagined fall New York Fashion Week this year. When the pandemic started in mid-March and shut down factories and put seamstress jobs on hold across the globe, Mr. Siriano in Connecticut, was among the first designers to volunteer his “full stitching crew” to assist healthcare workers by making surgical masks. With social distancing measures in place, he converted his house to produce masks pro bono. His team has continued to produce 500 masks a day for hospitals throughout New York. Starting off the season, haute couture designer Christian Siriano held his show in his very own Westport backyard. Converting his guest rooms into makeup stations and ensuring that guests were socially distancing, Mr. Siriano pulled off a fashion show like no other this season. Including looks that encouraged citizens to “Vote” and ending his show with a pregnant Coco Roca walking right into the pool in a nearly 200 pound taffeta gown, he made sure to open the season unforgettably.
Fashion has never been disconnected with politics and 2020 is no exception. The fashion industry is emblematic of the people and their struggles. The impact that the movement for racial equality, immigration rights and other pressing matters have had on the fashion industry can be seen in this year’s fall fashion week.
Those who have implemented digital technology to showcase their creations include Burberry, as they recently released a campaign featuring infamous model Kendall Jenner in CGI form. However, there are still designers who have opted out of a digital, or even socially distanced show. Large fashion brands, such as Yves Saint Laurent, chose the ever-growing social media app TikTok to display their latest fashion items this fall. Other brands have declined to partake, feeling that the world was not in the right social climate to enjoy high fashion. In addition, designers like Marc Jacobs expressed their concerns with the technicalities of their designs themselves.
Currently, 33 European countries have closed their borders to American travelers, and this has served as a major issue for fashion brands as countless high-end fabrics and most haute couture sewing teams are based in Europe. Jacobs explains “To be honest, I don’t know we’ll be doing or when we’ll be starting, but to design a collection I need my team” and “my team needs to look at fabrics and those fabrics come from Italy.” Designer Anna Sui admits that the pandemic has brought unprecedented times to the industry that “has never been seen before… through 9/11, 2008… this is really, really seismic.”
Chairman for the Council of Fashion Designers of America (host of the semi-annual NYFW), Tom Ford has been grappling with the effects of the pandemic that continues to furlough and cut pay for thousands of employees. He feels “to spend several million dollars on a show makes no sense… I would rather pay our staff”. In an industry that often thrives in excess and is the number one contributor to landfill, it is possible that the pandemic has led many at the head of couture to consider a reset—one that not only effects their employees, but the environment as well.
While many large designers like Prabal Gurung, Michael Kors, Marc Jacobs, and Ralph Lauren have stepped back from displaying their designs this year in light of social unrest and the pandemic, others have opted to make do with the current situation to bring what fashion does best to the world—inject creative joy in bleak times with compromise.
The show must go on, after all.
by Margaret Pham
Margaret is an undergraduate student at the University of California, Los Angeles studying Biochemistry. She is a journalist writing for Youth In Politics. She hopes one day to attend medical school where she can study and become a pediatrician. She has many interests including studying American history, playing music, scientific research, and volunteering. A Southern California native, she is also trilingual, fluent in Vietnamese, English, and French. She would like to use her voice and passion for writing and the sciences to shed light on politics and also help eliminate differences in socioeconomic groups and their access to healthcare. When she isn’t reading a Ron Chernow book or studying, she enjoys playing with her dog Snoopy and tending to her growing vegetable garden.”