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Fashion – sometimes it feels like an “all or nothing.” You’re either fashionable or you’re not. We see trends cycle in and out. Right now, for example, 70s retro is back. Ariel Foxman, General Manager (Boston Seaport) at WS Development and former Editor in Chief of InStyle Magazine, shared that “for so many decades, people looked to fashion for where creativity would be, but fashion fell behind creativity. A number of factors—from gender inclusivity, to the weather, COVID, casual dress becoming prevalent, and more have pushed fashion up against the wall.” Ariel was one of the panelists at the Fashion Forward: Fashion Made Me Do It event held in partnership with the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce and City Awake’s F.U.N. Lives On series, and put on by MadeINcubator, Inc. last week.
Ariel was joined by Ethan Crothers, Art Director at Rue Gilt Groupe and Nandi Howard, Content Director at Essence on a panel moderated by trademark litigation attorney Raïna Jacques, Associate Attorney at Sunstein LLC. The panel highlighted organizational synergies that allow for creative innovation that builds community and sustainability, including building a fashion business, branding principles, retail, marketing, and more.
It used to be that magazines were a precursor to what was coming down the line in fashion. Ariel points out that “in magazines, trends are very contrived. They’ve already decided what the colors will be three years from now.” In a today’s landscape, where folks have more real-time access to mediums like TikTok (which has the ability to make old music popular overnight, for example), can have such an impact on the fashion industry and encourage everyone to be a storyteller. Trends are, as Ariel says, “less about the styles and more about how people are showing themselves” as they have “so many ways to tell stories.”
Nandi echoes both the inspiration that can come from TikTok, and the individuality in today’s fashion landscape. As she says, “if you are really a fashion girl, you are anti-trends and create your own lane.” As someone who works in editorial, she sees how there can be “a lot of repetition in editorial, it’s about being yourself.” Nandi recently had the opportunity to interview Monique Rodriguez, CEO of Mielle Organics, for a cover story coming out next week on Black women and their hair. Monique’s business started in a garage and now her products are sold in nearly 100k major retailers. Monique embodies what it means to be yourself and go against the grain. As Nandi says, “I don’t take for granted writing for a publication that has been in so many Black people’s lives.”
Ethan had an interesting perspective to add to this topic as well. As someone who manages three photo shoots a week and balances research and creating newness with following brand guidelines, he says, “if you get too wrapped up in the trends, you get a sense of what’s going on with the collective, and that informs you from there.” While planning ahead helps his creative processes, he warns against “marrying anything in advance because it can kill creativity in the moment.”
For many people, the path into their careers today wasn’t a straight line, or what they may have expected them to be. Ariel explains that his way into the fashion and real estate industries initially were through the “side door” and he was “learning what other people already knew.” Over time, he realized that while it was easy to imagine the people who “made it” in the industry to have deep knowledge and expertise, the truth was that “everyone was always learning, learning through passion. The experts in the field are just passionate and put in the time.”
Ariel encouraged the audience to “be fearless, put yourself out there—go for things and then adjust.” Ethan echoes the importance of confidence and that “curiosity is a driver of creativity.” He encouraged attendees to “show that they want to learn. This doesn’t mean that you aren’t confident, but just the opposite—it shows more confidence.”
Part of seeing yourself in an industry, though, often stems from seeing others there. One of the most powerful statements in this event came from Raïna when she said, “when you get to a certain point, you can prop doors open for others. If someone sees you there, they can see themselves in those spaces, and know they can succeed.” Sometimes people need the encouragement to apply for a job that they may not have been able to imagine themselves in, and seeing someone that looks like them where they want to be can give them the confidence they need to put themselves out there to do the same.
In an industry that can seem elitist, times are changing, but the panelists agree there is still work to be done.
For Ariel, he challenged himself to make high fashion accessible. He now works in retail development creating stores that are not only alluring and inviting, but are cause-based. He partners with inclusive brands that can make a positive impact on those who shop with them—like creating pieces to elevate people’s moods.
Nandi adds that as we look to make the industry more representative, it is critical to know how to talk to people and network. While the industry has “blueprints,” the oneness is on management to look at their staff. If they don’t have “someone who is Black, latina, queer, they aren’t doing their jobs.” New York Fashion week served as a great example of how the models themselves have become very diverse, but as Nandi says, “the front row still isn’t.”
As we continue to push the fashion industry to real-time trend-watching and storytelling with social media and individualism serving as the new “blueprints” for what is fashion-forward, we hope to see a more diverse front row at future Fashion Week events too as the boardrooms advance along with the blueprints of the industry itself.
Sep 12, 2023 – Sep 16, 2023Greater Boston