At a time when fashion is in a state of flux, we're looking to the industry's next generation of influencers as a guiding light. This New York Fashion Week, Refinery29's Future of American Fashion series is highlighting the designers, brands, and retailers we're betting on big. The future starts here.
For over 15 years, Rachel Comey has created a playful world of alterna-fashion fashion complete with draped jumpsuits, leopard coats, and voluminous tops, and women with a penchant for style practically flock to her in droves — think Cindy Sherman, Rashida Jones, Miranda July, and Greta Gerwig. Comey, who fled New York for Los Angeles last Fashion Week, returns to her home turf this season with a collection and mindset befitting the authoritative woman she is: She's always had an almost psychic ability to figure out what her woman wants even before she does (remember the clog of the late-aughts — that was all her), and today, that's no different.
Finding Her Voice
In advance of the Women’s March this past January, Comey, in a somewhat surprising turn, penned a letter to the CFDA calling on her fellow designers and colleagues for support: “This is an opportunity for us, the fashion industry, to show that we stand in solidarity with the women who make up the majority of our customers — and the majority of our workforce," she wrote. "Women's rights are human rights.” Looking back, she admits the letter and most of her post-election activist actions weren’t planned. “It wasn’t very premeditated, again I was just trying to do my part and kind of be there for my team and my customers, use the opportunity that I have to speak up about the things I believe in,” she says. “I think that that is part of maturing too, and I think that’s probably a big difference between now and 15 years ago when I started my business. I was a younger person and more shy. As you get older, you have to step up, all women especially need to do it and it’s not like it’s something that I feel is necessarily a natural thing for me to be outspoken, but I think it’s important to use my voice. I’m just trying to be that person. I think there just comes a time in every woman’s career when you have to take some authority.”
The Woman In Charge
In fact, her authority has only intensified with access to social media and her own retail stores in New York and Los Angeles. “When you wholesale and go through showrooms and things like that it’s very confusing for a young designer,” she remembers. “I think to know who your customers are and where the opportunities are is an advantage I have now. To be able to understand who is shopping at my stores, what their lives are like, what they’re doing, and what they need is huge.”
This newfound self-assuredness extends to her upcoming collection, too, as Comey says she was trying to think about a “boss woman.” “There will be three sections and one of them hopefully is that woman of authority,” she reveals in advance of her show, which will be held at The Met Breuer’s Flora Bar. “The second one will be more playful styling, more item driven and probably more casual and not necessarily only for the workplace. And then the last group will be a more dressed up version, so we’re playing with volumes and some more decorative elements. [There will be] lots of tailoring sprinkled out through it all. I feel like there will be lots of tailoring this spring in all of the shows, it just feels like a moment for it, it’s an authoritative thing.”