May 19, 2018 | By Nicole McLennan
With New York Fashion Week in full swing, all eyes are on America as designers show their womenswear collections (and in some cases, integrated collections) for Spring/Summer 2017. For a few seasons now, it’s been evident that what happens at the street level is more influential than what’s happening on the runway, and several American designers have taken that literally—turning the sidewalk into a catwalk. But another shift is taking place: As American social issues, politics, and subculture become more prevalent on the global stage, the very notion of American style is shifting.
On one end of the spectrum, Tom Ford’s latest (and currently purchasable) collection taps into classic notions of luxury and eveningwear reinforced by big ticket items like opulent velvet coats. On the other, offerings from Kanye West and Heron Preston tap into pragmatism and utility, inspired by military surplus staples, vintage workwear, and even the hardy garments of New York sanitation workers. Our latest menswear report, Reinventing Americana, covers this emerging trend.
At New York Fashion Week, Band of Outsiders returned to the runway after being resurrected by financial backer CLCC. Under the creative direction of Antwerp-based designers Nikolas Hodel, Matthias Weber, and Florian Feder, known for their WeberHodelFeder footwear line, the new iteration of the label takes its primary inspiration from 1990s skate culture and streetwear, according to Business of Fashion.
Whereas the old Band of Outsiders peddled in the rebellious preppy realm that defines classic American brands like Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger, the new line mixes patchwork flannel cardigans with embroidered varsity jackets and snap-button tearaway track pants. It’s traded the upper class aspiration for accessible street staples. Its lower, more contemporary price point will drive that point home as well.
Meanwhile, J. Crew, a simultaneous barometer and envelope-pusher for commercial American fashion, similarly remixes the Americana aesthetic. The Spring/Summer 2017 presentation was a return-to-roots of sorts, casting friends and family of the brand in lieu of professional models.
Surplus tans, olives, and washed pinks were prevalent tones, and the men’s offerings mixed street staples like crushable bucket hats with Japanese-inspired twists, like patchwork trousers, indigo-dyed knitwear, and enough sneaker collaborations to make any trainer enthusiast excited.
One can’t talk about Americana style without mentioning the decline in American manufacturing. Despite reports of the loss of 5 million manufacturing jobs since 2000, one of the U.S. economy’s most dynamic sectors is—believe it or not—manufacturing. Looking beyond the scope of apparel, Marketwatch points out that in 2015, gross output of U.S. manufacturing totaled $6.2 trillion—roughly 36% of the country’s gross domestic product. On a global scale, the U.S. is only second to China as one of the world’s leading manufacturing economies.
In fact, Adamstown, Pennsylvania-based Bollman Hat Company, owners of hat brands Bailey, Helen Kaminski, and Kangol recently opened a new factory housing specialized knit machines that were moved from Panyu, China to the U.S. It officially cut the ribbon on the new factory, named the Dogfish tHrEAD Knitting Mill, after Delaware-based beer brewer Dogfish Head purchased the naming rights. The companies are also launching a limited-edition Kangol 507 wool cap made in the factory to commemorate the event, as well as a collaborative beer called “Sir-Hops-a-Lot.”
Kangol, a brand born in Britain, is known primarily for its driver-style 504 and 507 caps often seen on celebrities like Samuel L. Jackson, and were especially prevalent in the burgeoning days of hip-hop culture on seminal figures like Grandmaster Flash and Slick Rick, as depicted in the Netflix series The Get Down. Kangol even sent hats to be featured in the show. In that, they are part of the diverse subcultural American style heritage that designers and consumers would rather tap into over outdated ideals of “classic American style” like overdressed dandy preps and would-be lumberjacks.
In addition, Kangol will also produce a collaborative series of hats for designer Alexander Wang’s Spring/Summer 2017 collection. The collaborative Peebles caps will utilize the shiny patent leather and nylon leopard-print fabrics from the designer’s latest show, and will be available as part of Nordstrom’s Pop-In Shop series next Friday. The hats however, are manufactured in Kangol’s Italian factories.
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