It’s Hard out Here for a Heritage Brand

Business of Fashion recently took a look at how American brands both young and old are dealing with the (alt-)right’s co-opting of all things Americana, from patriotism to domestic manufacturing.

“For many consumers both in the US and abroad, the concept of “All American” is more fraught than ever,” Lauren Sherman writes. “Gone is the warm-and-fuzzy nostalgia, the hope and idealism. In the divisive, emotionally crippling era of Trump, American pride has hit an all-time low, according to a June 2019 Gallup poll.”

This society-wide recoil means that innately patriotic designs belonging to brands like Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger and even Levi’s are no longer as desirable or scaleable on a nationwide level, prompting a reassessment of sorts from labels and organizations of all sizes.

The CFDA, for instance, responded to the ambivalence toward American fashion by appointing folks like Virgil Abloh and Kerby Jean Raymond to its board, hoping that some new, internationally-respected faces could provide some excitement and desperately needed fresh ideas.

Some labels, meanwhile, are doing “their thinking on the runway” — hoping to “reflect society, illustrating what it’s like to be living in America right now,” while others are “spending more time pointedly baking new ideals into their brand DNA.”

Case in point, US-made denim label, BLDWN, is trying to focus on “aspects of American culture rarely explored by traditional heritage brands.” In practice, that looks like Andy Warhol and John Steinbeck as sources of inspiration, not “Elvis and cowboys and plaid.”

“What if we look at ‘American’ through a slightly different lens?” BLDWN president Jonathan Crocker said. “If we can be some kind of agent of positive change, that’s something that we take a lot of pride in.”

Given the current direction of things, that’s probably a good idea.

You can read more about it at Business of Fashion.

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