A mix of in-studio interviews and video call conversations, Vogue’s fourth annual Forces of Fashion conference has, naturally, gotten the digital treatment. The two-day event which in previous years had eager crowds handing over a pretty penny to hear the likes of Kerby Jean-Raymond and other industry giants speak on their crafts, has pared down the price but decidedly not cut any corners on the experience. The conference, which began Monday, still included live Q & A participation from audience members and the opportunity to network with Vogue editors in break out rooms. Condé Nast artistic director and Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour delivered opening and closing remarks and contributing editor Chloe Malle took on the role of host, ushering audiences from one “conference stage” to another with pithy call backs and jokes for each of the conversations.
Gabriella Karefa-Johnson, Fashion Director of GARAGE Magazine, kicked off the first panel of the conference, moderating an in-person dialogue between models Paloma Elesser, Precious Lee, and Tess McMillan, with Jill Kortleve video-conferencing in. The conversation set the tone for the rest of the day, opening up about specific issues and triumphs within the fashion industry but also the cultural moment at large. With greenery surrounding them and bottles of Pellegrino onstage, only the KN95 mask on Karefa-Johnson’s table and the Plexiglass panels between each speaker betrayed the Covid-era realties.
Later in the day, creative director and founder Jonathan Anderson called in from what he called his “marble nightclub,” but what most of us know as the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Speaking with writer and director Reggie Yates, Anderson summed up the thesis of much of his work: “You cannot sell something today if it is culturally barren.” It applied to most of their 35 minute conversation as well, touching on sexuality, Black Lives Matter, and the role of fashion throughout the tumult of this year.
Audiences also got to hear Sarah Jessica Parker wax poetic about New York. In her eyes the city’s “chaos” has always been its beauty, even from a young age when she didn’t quite have the words for these feelings. She and designer Christopher John Rogers spoke with Vogue Editor-at-Large Hamish Bowles and acknowledged how the city is continuing to become less and less accessible to artists (dancers, performers, fine artists, those in fashion and beyond). Some bold ideas for re-shaping the city followed, including Parker’s pitch for New York landlords to give breaks on rent and be more considerate so more people bring their talents and visions. Hear us out: SJP for mayor??
Lizzo and Moschino’s Jeremy Scott would drop the first (and only?) F-bombs of the day as the two gabbed affectionately in what felt more like a cocktail hour among friends. The conversation inevitably turned to the recent election and Lizzo’s get-out-the-vote efforts. But each lingered on their current relationship to time—in Lizzo’s case, taking time away in Mexico; for Scott it was slowing down and literally smelling the roses, thanks to his new hobby of flower arranging.
In each panel, though, the topic of time would crop up. For Rogers, the extra time in lockdown prompted him to start drawing on printer paper, and that in turn inspired his spring collection. For Parker, she predicts that designers and owners will require more time to invest in their brands and retail. And for the entire fashion industry, there is the question of how much time it will take to go even further in their changes, to reflect the ever-shifting culture around them.
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