Hamish Bowles Presents Everything You Need to Know About American Fashion

The fashion landscape is a shifting one. For a long time, Paris was its undisputed capital, but now, as Hamish Bowles states: “American fashion is setting the tone for a never-seen-before future.”

The seeds of modern American fashion were planted in the 1940s.  Stateside trends typically followed ones set in France. When Paris was occupied during the Second World War, there were none. This allowed designers like Claire McCardell and Mainbocher to come to the fore.  They represented two ends of the spectrum, with the former catering to the elite and the latter to women with an active lifestyle, through such pieces as “washable, re-wearable” dresses, which Bowles describes as “the Holy Grail of modern accessible fashion.”

Leading the way in the 1950s and ’60s, American fashion’s adolescence, were talents like Norman Norell and Charles James, whose architectural gowns were admired by the likes of Christian Dior but who also can be credited, notes Bowles, for such popular pieces as wrap dresses and sports bras. 

A real turning point in the New York–versus–Paris competition was a 1973 charity fashion show that’s known as the Battle of Versailles, in which five representatives of French fashion and as many of the American mode vied for acclaim.  The stars and stripes prevailed. Modern, easy, unstructured clothes mirrored contemporary life. 

The 1980s saw the emergence of the big three: Ralph, Calvin, and Donna. Calvin Klein’s minimal slip dresses became iconic from the 1990s waif look, just as Marc Jacobs’s grunge collection for Perry Ellis is the emblematic moment when the MTV generation melded together with the industry.

Alongside this, brands like FUBU and Cross Colours introduced street elements into fashion and spoke to communities that were largely overlooked. Talk about tables turning: Streetwear is now one of the driving forces of profit and prestige. Virgil Abloh combines both those assets in his work for his own label, Off-White, and for Louis Vuitton menswear.

Now a new generation—including Telfar Clemens, Collina Strada’s Hillary Taymour, and Pyer Moss’s Kerby Jean-Raymond—is redefining what American fashion can be by infusing it with emotion and using it to express their political and moral beliefs. As Bowles puts it, these new talents—and there are many—are making their own rules and combining comfort and simplicity with a “high standard for values.” 

Host: Hamish Bowles

Director: Andrew B. Myers

Writers: Stef Dag and Lane Williamson

Supervising Producer: Jordin Rocchi

Associate Producers: Cecilia Sallusti and Michelle Wong

Set Designer: Mike Feswick

Hand Model: Brielle Jenkins

VFX, Editing, and Sound: Andrew B. Myers

VP, Digital Video Programming and Development, Vogue (English Language): Robert Semmer

Director of Content, Vogue: Tara Homeri

Production Manager: Emily Yates

Postproduction Manager: Marco Glinbizzi

Originally Appeared on Vogue