What Is ‘American Fashion’ Now?

This is a moment when the whole idea of national identity is getting interrogated on a wide scale. And that means fashion, too, is being forced to interrogate itself, asking the same questions. When it comes to the term “American fashion,” who gets to define it? Who gets included? Is it even relevant anymore?

Right now it’s kind of a hot mess. But that’s honestly kind of cool.

The through lines have to do with the founding mythologies of the country — principles of democracy, free expression, rebellion and self-invention, rather than any specific silhouette or style or geography. Which is why Isaac Mizrahi, who made his name pairing ribbed tank tops with elaborate ballroom skirts, said that as far as he was concerned, Valentino, with its slouchy separates in double-faced everything, “is the most American brand working today.”

Perhaps that is also why there are so few instances of American brands continuing to exist after their founders have passed away. It’s not because the designer didn’t leave a clear and powerful legacy or archive — McCardell, Beene, Patrick Kelly had all that. 

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