On Wednesday night, industry insiders gathered at the 92nd Street Y in NYC to hear Dirk Standen, editor in chief of Style.com, lead a discussion on the future of fashion with Leandra Medine, founder of The Man Repeller, and Lizzie Tisch and Kim Kassel, co-founders of upscale designer retail experience Suite 1521.
Topics up for heated discussion ranged from the digital landscape that has changed the relationship between brands and the press, the concept of "American fashion" and the proposition of Medine taking over Standen's job -- she was joking, but seriously Standen, you should probably keep an eye on her.
Standen called out the Internet and bloggers like Medine as the lynchpin for change in how we consume and process fashion today, saying, "The digital revolution took a closed system and opened it up to the whole world. I'd like to think Style.com has a role in that, but so do blogs and blogging."
But according to Medine, it's third-party services like Instagram that have had a bigger impact on the way people consume fashion in small, highly filtered bites. "I realized probably about two or three years ago that my Instagram feed was starting to trump my blog. It was easier to take in from the pocket as opposed to a laptop and easy to feed candy to the followers," she explained. "I didn't want people to recognize me from Instagram -- that's when I decided I wanted to seek out contributors and build a media brand."
Part of the conversation evolved around the concept of "American fashion." Standen said that consumers still believe true high fashion comes from Paris, and that American fashion does not get as much respect from the rest of the world. Medine pointed to the evolution of distinctly American designers like Calvin Klein, Michael Kors and Tommy Hilfiger, as well as younger players like Prabal Gurung and Alexander Wang, all of whom have distinctive points of view. "I think Paris Fashion Week is a lot more hoity-toity than New York Fashion Week, but brands like Jason Wu, Prabal Gurung and Proenza Schouler are starting to emerge and gain respect," she said.
Kassel noted that designers have more freedom now to experiment with a certain aesthetic. "Michael Kors, Calvin, Ralph didn't have the benefit of CFDA Vogue Fashion Fund and the other various support systems behind them that young designers do today which allows them to take greater risks."
The CFDA has played a huge role in that, Tisch said. "Upcoming American designers have a great point of view and the CFDA has been crucial in getting them to that place because it’s a business -- it’s a really hard business. When you see a small brand struggle to get off the ground you realize why you need that support," she said. "These designers have more freedom to experiment a bit and we're seeing a huge emerging talent that we haven't seen in a long time."
Tisch and Kassel also spoke about the importance of having strong women designers -- they, after all, know what it's like to be inside the clothes. "Maybe if your fabric is itchy you don't care, but if someone puts it on and says, 'Ew get this off me,' maybe you should want to know," Kassel said. Tisch added, "We still see men designers with skirts up to here."
In their own closets, Kassel and Tisch are looking forward to curating more brands they've come to know and love, but are on the hunt for specifics this fall: Kassel wants a great cape and Tisch just wants some cool boots. As far as Medine's concerned, she just wants more cargo pockets -- "everywhere." She also said, “I'm really into the Tome guys. They conceal women in all the right ways -- huge culottes and big blouses that are open in all sorts of funny places."