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Philadelphia fashion could take off after pandemic if we commit to buying local

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I am happy to see that we are emerging from the pandemic in style.

Of course, we are always in cozy mode. But the silky cargo pants, matching zip-up hoodies and adorable maxi shirts we wear around town tell me we’re ready to dress again, even if we don’t give up on comfort. And why should we? There are a lot of things that we are uncomfortable with. We don’t need to add fashion to it.

READ MORE: The world is opening up, but we still live in a state of discomfort. Here’s how to handle it | Elizabeth wellington

This is not the only proof that our fashion values ​​are changing. I’m sure the industry will change the way they talk to us, celebrating who we are as we are instead of suggesting we need the latest skinny jeans or miracle face cream to complete us.

“Brands that buy into the marketing message that they complement us in one way or another are going to backfire,” said John Dick, founder and CEO of CivicScience, a consumer trend tracking tool based at Pittsburgh. “The days of brands that made us cool are almost over. “

And there’s this truth: When local businesses thrive, we all thrive. We are emerging from the pandemic with a new urgency to support small businesses. We’ve spent the past 15 months watching businesses close (both restaurants and retail), and several more are just coming back from the brink. The precariousness of the local industry is real.

If designers, retailers, and buyers – that means you and I – play this post-pandemic game well, the local fashion scene may finally have a chance to flourish.

This is true for many cities. But Philly is uniquely poised for success here. Why? Philadelphians love comfort. Philadelphians have a way of ignoring industry trends. And Philadelphians love to see their people shine.

“We are past the point where the industry is trying to make us be something that we are not,” said Kevin Parker, founder and producer of Philly Fashion Week. “We are not looking for other people or cities to define our style.

Philadelphia has always had an original approach to fashion. At the height of his style in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, specialty boutique owner Tony Lerner and designer Albert Nipon were household names.

The city lost its fashion edge in the 90s when local manufacturing dried up and designer looks replaced art-driven fashion. Some local stores like Joan Shepp, Boyds Philadelphia and Knit Wit have retained their cachet. But most have turned to New York for clues of high fashion.

It was only a part of us, however. The rest of us have gone for the fast fashion and the discount route. A staid fashion scene emerged that even the Philadelphia Fashion Incubator and Philadelphia Fashion Week couldn’t heal. Philadelphia just didn’t appreciate the elitist way high fashion spoke to them. Period.

But now, after 15 months of comfort, Philly is delving into her identity as Sweatpants Capital USA in a weirdly chic way. And local designers continue to discreetly create durable and / or flattering clothing lines for all body types. As attention to fashion capitals wanes, Philadelphia has the chance to once again become its own northern fashion star. Although much more inclusive.

“Centers of influence like New York and even Silicon Valley are going to be diluted,” Dick said. “You don’t have to be there to be in the industry. Result: talents will be better distributed. Any city can potentially have the next fad in its own backyard.

But what about all those vacancies in posh Walnut Street? Intermix closed. The Sixty-Five store has disappeared. The skirt is gone. Jeans Timberland, Talbot, Lucky Brand. Closed. Closed Closed. When other stores close – both national and local – it makes people think fashion is dead. From where I stand, the landscape looks dark.

Don’t be fooled by these vacancies, Parker said. They are not representative of the work of our creatives.

Local designers like Muhammad “Homm” Abdul-Basit and Deric “Nyce” Crawley, founders of Jeantrix; Nancy Connor of Smart Adaptive Clothing and Iris Bonner of Thesepinklips have been busy growing their businesses online and through social media during the pandemic. Jeantrix and Thesepinklips have benefited from important celebrity cries (Beyoncé and Billy Porter respectively). And Nancy Connor’s tailored smart clothing can be purchased on Zappos.

“That’s it for us,” Crawley said, “because we can build where we are. It is so important that creatives can build where we are. If we can find work here. Grow here. And stay here instead of leaving, we can put Philly on the map because we’re here.

READ MORE: Jeantrix Is Philly’s Fashion Brand With Leather Jackets Featured In Beyoncé’s ‘Black Is King’

The challenge, Parker said, is to create the necessary momentum. It means spreading the word in order to stimulate business and develop local manufacturing. But there is a lot of work.

Last February, Kerry Scott, co-founder of Parker and Philly Fashion Week, showcased nearly a dozen Philadelphia designers, including Bonner, accessory designer Conrad Booker, and season 12 winner Dom Streater. from Project Runway, pictured by Harper’s Bazaar Vietnam, as part of an ode to Philadelphia-based Designers.

Parker and Scott chair the Philadelphia Fashion and Apparel Industry Task Force, a city-sponsored organization that promotes local businesses and provides grants to committed designers and retailers in Philadelphia. The task force last year launched a Support Philly Fashion website, a database of local designers and specialty stores.

“Our vision is to elevate the fashion business in Philadelphia,” Parker said. “We need people to understand that we can be competitive globally. We need the support of our community to be able to fend for ourselves. “

Two months ago, the New York-based Council of Fashion Designers of America partnered with Philly Fashion Week and eight regional fashion weeks to launch CFDA Connects, an initiative designed to help local fashion weeks to produce parades.

But this is not enough. We need to overcome the stigma that Philadelphia is sort of a second fiddle when it comes to fashion. If we don’t, our designers will have no chance of success.

There is hope. Elissa Bloom says she can feel new energy bubbling up. Bloom was Executive Director of the Philadelphia Fashion Incubator for 10 years. But now she says brands like Sherrill Mosee’s Minkee Blue handbag are being picked up by Macy’s, and Amy Voloshin’s Printfresh pajamas are featured on QVC.

“I feel like we’ve gone from a city known for wearing sweatpants to a city that is growing,” Bloom said. “We are finally taken more seriously. “

We have the creative. We have the reader.

The rest is up to us, the buyer. What Philadelphia fashion needs now is our support.


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