The Fashion Industry After 9/11

We all remember where we were, what we were doing, how we felt. 17 years ago to this day, our lives changed enormously. Over the years, we’ve found ways to cope with the tragedy of 9/11, but the day is still a poignant reminder of how quickly our worlds can be turned upside down. At the same time, we can’t ignore how much resilience and strength was displayed in the aftermath of the attack. This year, I’d like to focus on just that. And since we’re all stylish people here, let’s take a look at how this event impacted the fashion industry in particular.

For a sector that’s notorious for being cut throat and competitive, the fashion industry really came together in the wake of 9/11. What many of us may not even realize is that 9/11 took place right amidst NY fashion week festivities. The world had stopped, and the fashion industry was no exception. The remaining 73 shows were cancelled, and designers were left in a state of limbo regarding how to move forward. New York was and still is a mecca for the fashion world, so when it became paralyzed, so did fashion.

This paralysis did not last for very long, however. As some might say, the show must go on. For smaller labels who didn’t have their own showrooms, there was no way to display their collections to buyer and the press. To ameliorate this issue, Vogue and coordinated a group fashion show called “An American View” for some of the labels that didn’t have the chance to show their collections as planned. Carolina Herrera graciously offered her midtown showroom, and top models and stylists waived their fees. The show epitomized how the fashion industry assembled to support its fellow members in light of the crisis.

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Beyond recuperating and salvaging what was left of NY fashion week that year, the industry took a united front in developing patriotic pieces to empower Americans in the face of the chaos. Merchandise made in remembrance of the 9/11 attack brought Americans together in solidarity. In a more ancillary way, fashion became a bit more conservative. There was a revival of denim, and jeans became socially acceptable in both professional and casual settings. As perhaps a subconscious grasp for unity, brand names and logos became popular as well. Overall, there was a sense of wanting to be unified, and this manifested in peoples’ clothing choices.

Today, there are dozens more fashion week shows than in 2001, just one way that the fashion industry is sticking it to terrorism. Although we pay our respects to the tragedy and all who were affected by it, we still thrive in the face of what was a disaster and is now a touchpoint of strength for our nation. As Diane von Furstenberg said, “We lived it, saw it, smelled it and refused to be defeated. We are not victims. We built a better building, an entire neighborhood. We are proud, but we don’t forget.”


On this anniversary of 9/11, consider checking out the 9/11 Memorial and Museum downtown, or donating to the organization, as the Council of Fashion Designers of America has so generously continued to do throughout the years. However you choose to remember the day, don’t forget the perseverance of our very own industry, as well as our perseverance as a nation.

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