Most of the designers I spoke to don’t do traditional fashion shows. “I always talk to the CFDA [Council of Fashion Designers of America]—they actually piss me off, to be very honest with you,” Snyder says. “They, I don’t feel, support American designers. I don’t feel like they’re supporting Teddy Santis, who should be considered best new designer. Like, bar none—he should get it. He built an empire under all of our noses, and he’s done it in his own way. And same thing with Noah. Now, of course, everybody knows who Jerry Lorenzo is, but…Fear of God was doing the same thing. Same thing Virgil [Abloh] was doing.”
Industry thinking goes that if an American designer is lucky, he might get a post at a European luxury house. But none of these stars seem destined for the fashion machine. Most of them grew up on sneakers, T-shirts, and jeans, listening to rap, going to hardcore concerts. Savoir faire means little to them, as does the European fashion system. “For us, our dream has never been to go to a big luxury fashion house; it’s always been to create our own house,” Lorenzo says. Now the goal beyond that is a creative position at a sneaker brand, like the one Santis has with New Balance, or Kanye West’s with Adidas, or Pyer Moss designer Kerby-Jean Raymond’s with Reebok, or the one Lorenzo formalized with Adidas basketball last winter.
The New American Footwear Rotation
New Business Models
Snyder, a native Iowan, has a Midwesterner’s pragmatism when it comes to explaining the ethos that makes his brand work. His clothes are conservative, but he is something of the godfather of this movement. He left J.Crew about a decade ago knowing how to dress a tasteful 30-something guy. At the time, he saw brands like Bonobos seizing that customer with their disruptive, direct-to-consumer pitch but felt that while many guys might be “freaked out” by the excesses of runway fashion, there were more than a few who were stylish and moneyed enough that they’d be drawn to something more thoughtfully designed. He isn’t independent—American Eagle acquired his brand in 2015—but that has actually allowed him to do what the old-fashioned system, with its layers of intermediary retailers and big media relationships, did not: eliminate retailers so he can speak directly to his audience. As he learned from a blockbuster partnership he oversaw between J.Crew and Red Wing, collaborations get media attention, so he does a lot of them, with brands such as L.L.Bean and Champion.