8 Iconic American Designers on Why They’re Staying in New York

In theme with the fashion industry’s hyperbolic nature, it has felt, over the course of the past few months and by way of a few different announcements, that “everyone is leaving New York Fashion Week.”

Four American labels will show in Paris this season: Altuzarra, Proenza Schouler, Thom Browne and Rodarte. Tommy Hilfiger showed in LA last February, and this season, the designer’s eponymous house will show his Fall 2017 “see now, buy now” collection in London. These are respected names, and they are trying something new (perhaps experimentally — as CFDA president and CEO Steven Kolb told Vogue, “[W]e’ve seen New York designers go to Europe and show, and [then] come back to New York”), but their departures do not indicate the demise of this city’s fashion credibility nor heart.

I was doubtful of this until I began to make a list of the American houses still here: Carolina Herrera, Michael Kors, Diane von Furstenberg, Oscar de la Renta, Ralph Lauren. Tory Burch isn’t leaving — this is her home, as it is for Derek Lam, Jason Wu, Prabal Gurung, Anna Sui. Tom Ford kicked off fashion week in New York an entire day early. Rihanna is showing Fenty Puma in Manhattan; the Row is back; Alexander Wang is digging his heels further into Brooklyn. Smaller brands — the exciting ones to keep your eyes on — are putting on presentations. Meanwhile, consumer-friendly heavy-hitters continue to appeal to their customers while waving their New York City banners. It’s more than encouraging. It’s a reminder that this garment district-supported city of supposed insomniacs is still, and always will be, a supporter of, incubator for and heartbeat of fashion.

Below, I asked eight household names on why they’re staying in New York.

1. Michael Kors

Photography by Inez & Vinoodh, Courtesy of Michael Kors

“I’ve been showing at New York Fashion Week since 1983, and I’ve watched the fashion borders disappear over the years. I showed in Paris with Céline for six and a half years and loved the experience. I’m proud to be a New Yorker, born and bred, and it’s exciting to see how fashion has evolved and changed.”

2. Prabal Gurung

Photo courtesy of Prabal Gurung

“I dreamed of coming to and making a career for myself in New York since I was a young boy in Nepal. I used to sit in the back of the classroom at an all boys British Catholic school sketching dresses — I always knew this is where I wanted to be. I dreamt the American dream, and New York is the hallmark of this vision. It is a true melting pot and place for people to turn their dreams into their realities through hard work and perseverance.

New York is a home to me, it’s where our brand is rooted. It’s also a city that allows for statements to be made and opinions to be formed, a city worth celebrating. Amid a challenging social and political climate, showing in New York gives us the platform to build on a global dialogue about issues surrounding our culture. I feel a strong responsibility to use this platform to continue to push the boundaries and provoke change, or at least provoke conversation surrounding the essential issues we face.

I dreamt the American dream, and New York is the hallmark of this vision.

While many people are choosing to leave this city, I never grow tired of New York with its liberal minds and channels of creativity. The melting pot culture of this city inspires me to give proper representation on our runway (something you will absolutely see more of at our show this season). I want to share this mindset of diversity and inclusion with the world, and challenge people to reconsider their preconceived notions of beauty.”

3. Jonathan Saunders, Chief Creative Officer of Diane von Furstenberg

Photo by Christian MacDonald

“I can’t imagine showing anywhere else. My Fall campaign is a love letter to New York. We shot it on the streets of the city, and it is set to the words of a young New York poet. The inspiration for my new Spring ’18 collection is New York City in the 70s, when the city was in its creative heyday and an entrepreneurial spirit and sense of opportunity were prevalent. There was such an array of diversity in culture. I have an emotional connection with New York City. It’s a great source of inspiration for me and I love how it has always embraced newness.”

4. Jason Wu

Photo courtesy of Jason Wu

“Moving to New York has been a lifetime dream of mine. I always knew that I would live here one day. I feel that it’s very important for me to keep showing in New York as it is the city that inspired me to create my brand. There is an unique energy in this city that I don’t find anywhere else.

I think the industry is in transition mode. There is simply too much out there and the bubble has burst. It will take time for things to settle down but I do think this is the new normal; luxury brands have to bring exclusivity and desire back into focus. Designers and fashion houses have to think outside of the box. Fashion can be very insular and I am personally very interested in the idea of cross-pollinating with other fields. It feels more modern.”

5. Tory Burch


“We are proud to be an American brand. New York is our home and showing our collection here is one way of giving back to the city. I am confident that our industry will continue to thrive. Fashion is a vital part of the city’s economy.”

6. Derek Lam

Photo courtesy of Derek Lam

“I came to NY to study art and design because I really wanted to be at the heart of where creativity and ‘culture making’ happens. For me, New York was it. The culture and history of American lifestyle, and in its extension, fashion, informs so much of my work. It provides me with much, if not all, of my inspiration. It’s really the starting point for every new season I create. I can’t imagine not showing my work in the place that inspires my collections so much. I really do believe the American perspective is relevant and appreciated not only at home, but also internationally.

I try to stay constant, yet also bend with the winds of change.

When I think back through the 15 years since the start of my own brand, I’m kind of astonished at how much has changed, the constant upheavals, twist and turns the fashion world has experienced. It’s seems like many lifespans have passed in such a short period of time. Change is terrific, and I think fashion is one of the most responsive ways to express changes in the way we collectively look and think about our lives, culture, etc. I think I’ve come to a conclusion to how I can continue to move forward: I try to stay constant, yet also bend with the winds of change. It’s usually an amazing ride, and certainly satisfying to be (hopefully still) nimble at this balancing act.”

7. Carolina Herrera

Photo courtesy of Carolina Herrera

“I am a great believer that New York City is one of the most important cities for fashion. It’s full of energy and inspires me, which is why I continue to show here. It has been an honor for me to be able to show my collections at some of the most iconic places in the city such as The Metropolitan Club, Bryant Park, Lincoln Center, and The Frick. This season I’m excited to say I will be showing at the Museum of Modern art.

I was very lucky that I had the opportunity to open my business 36 years ago in New York. I am honored to be an American designer.”

8. Anna Sui

Photo by Jerry Schatzberg

“My whole career has been in New York. I’m a huge supporter of saving the garment district, keeping the industry alive here. We have a delicate infrastructure within just a few block’s radius. You can get all the trims, all the best fabrics, all the things you need to make clothing. You can find a contractor, a cutting room — the garment district has made it possible for me to have my own business. Without this kind of infrastructure, building my company would have been nearly impossible to do. Where would you go to buy pins? Now you can order them online, but back then you’d need to walk down the street to find it. And you could.

Maybe I’m just being nostalgic for the old days, but I think the scene here is worth saving, and worth salvaging — as much as we can.

There are a lot of skilled craftsman in this area, a lot of skilled people. I’ve worked overseas. I have worked in India, in Italy, I had design offers in many international places, but I’m American. I’ve always wanted to stay here. I support New York. This is where I’ve built my business, this is where all of my workers call home. Eighty percent of my clothes are made in New York. That’s why I’ve been trying to support the scene here, to save the garment center: because I really believe in it.

Keeping my show in New York is a sign of support. Trying to source more material from New York or work with factories is also a method of support. These days, people want to go and produce where the cheapest labor is, but I don’t know if that’s the best way to go. My clothes aren’t the most expensive by any means, so for me, I think it’s possible to keep what I do here in the city. Maybe I’m just being nostalgic for the old days, but I think the scene here is worth saving, and worth salvaging as much as we can.”

That leaves just one question: Which NYFW designer are you most excited to see this season?

Amelia Diamond

Amelia Diamond

Amelia Diamond is a writer, creative consultant, and Man Repeller alumnus living in New York City.

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