Which American designer is about to be resurrected? Between the upcomingMet Gala, which will be a celebration of American fashion, Netflix’s recent release of Halston, and American brands making a big comeback via new collections and collaborations, we’re on the verge of a resurrection of a classic American designer. But the big question is, who will it be? There are a few to choose from. Some brands that were on constant rotation in our closets pre-Y2K have (sadly) faded into the back of our closets.
We are in the midst of loving a throwback. With 90s fashion clearly having a moment lately (whether it’s in the shape of wedge heels, denim vests, or flare boot cut jeans) combined with the natural sentimentality we’ve been feeling over the last year as we tried to grasp on to something familiar and comforting while the world turned upside down, the country should be primed for the resurgence of an American luxury designer.
But here’s the thing: when we think of luxury fashion, we often think of European houses. From Paris to Milan, Europe’s history is full of fashion, with current European fashion houses going back as far as the early to mid-1800s, when the United States was just barely a half century old. (Hermès was founded in 1837 and is the oldest luxury brand still in business.)
However, several American houses came of age later on and came to define that Americana fashion that became so popular. Brands like Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan, Tommy Hilfiger, and Calvin Klein have all become synonymous with American luxury today, but they aren’t the only ones. Brands and designers like Halston, Perry Ellis, Henri Bendel, Anne Klein, and Todd Oldham also reigned supreme throughout the mid to late 1900s.
Halston was synonymous with American women’s fashion until Calvin Klein took that title: after Jackie Kennedy wore a Halston pillbox hat to John F. Kennedy’s presidential inauguration, Halston’s pieces flew off the rack. But with time, the Halston allure faded away. Whether it was because of his refusal to make jeans or because Jackie Kennedy stopped wearing hats, Calvin Klein stepped in and took control of the American market. But Halston continues on today. Will it be the next brand to undergo a full resurrection and be the next hot brand? Only time will tell.
Meanwhile, Perry Ellis defined sportswear for years with his fresh, modern take on fashion. Todd Oldham was known for his lighthearted approach to fashion and one of his signature looks was using digitally-printed fabrics. He pioneered this method which became wildly popular across brands throughout the 90s. Anne Klein’s vision provided an American point of view to the rest of the international fashion industry. She originated the concept of a fully coordinated wardrobe, and her pieces became synonymous with purposeful and stylish wardrobes that continued to set trends for decades. Her eponymous brand is still sold today, but without the same force it had in years past. Henri Bendel was another designer who defined fashion well into the early 2000s. He was known for having a knack for finding designers before they made it big. His eponymous accessories store was well-loved around the world, and people are still mourning its closure. Though many of these brands we loved are now gone (or majorly scaled back), they’re never forgotten. Whether it was bankruptcy issues or otherwise, not everyone could survive.
That’s not to say the American brands we know and love right now didn’t also go through their fair share of challenges as well. As our love for Americana fashion faded and European fashion houses continued to flourish, American houses had to adapt to the change to survive. We have seen a multitude of collaborations come out of the last couple decades to help get the next generation excited about these brands, like Coach’s collaborations with Disney or Keith Haring, or more recently, Calvin Klein’s collaboration with Heron Preston and Ralph Lauren’s collaboration with the MLB. Of course, Ralph Lauren will be dressing the US Olympic Team this summer as well, as usual.
Through these collaborations and our knack for sentimentality at the moment, American luxury fashion is back, though, and it’s just in time for the next Met Gala. We have a feeling we’ll be seeing a lot more American fashion in the coming months and years between preparing for the Met Gala and the world binge-watching Halston.
Halston brought back memories of the era of the designer’s dresses and how they changed women’s lives. The costumes and strong casting reminded us of the decade they were living in — the one where Halston could marry sportswear and couture into wearable, fashionable looks.
The upcoming Met Gala is broken up into two parts to honor 20th and 21st century American fashion. The first part of the exhibit is titled In America: A Lexicon of Fashion, debuting Sept. 18, 2021. It will show how designers have responded to social and political movements in America through fashion and feature pioneers of contemporary American fashion.
Meanwhile, the second part, In America: An Anthology of Fashion, debuts on May 5, 2022, shortly after the first Monday in May. This exhibit will focus on sharing narratives that have been often overlooked throughout the history of American fashion. With this two-part exhibit on the way, it will surely inspire the resurrection of some of our favorite brands and their influence on fashion across the decades.
But the Met Gala can also change the fate of future of American fashion designers. With people constantly looking for what is new and trendy lately, perhaps the Met Gala will show us some new designers who are ready to take on the American luxury market. There is certainly a selection to choose from, whether it be Christopher John Rogers, Brandon Maxwell, Maisie Wilens, LaQuan Smith, Colm Dillane, or any other rising designers. We’re on the edge of our seats waiting to see how attendees will interpret the theme, whether it’s going full Americana (hello, Levi’s and Tommy Hilfiger), commenting on political and social movements (Prabal Gurung has been very vocal lately), going futuristic (perhaps an up-and-coming designer at Parsons or FIT), a throwback to any of the brands that defined fashion for so many years prior, or anything else.
In the meantime, we’re waiting to see who will be the next American designer to be resurrected. We’re still mourning the loss of Henri Bendel accessories, so let’s just say we wouldn’t be mad about it if we were to see some brown and white bags paired with a Todd Oldham-inspired dress (à la Serena van der Woodsen).
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