Harriet Mays Powell is fashion director at New York Magazine and a former editor at Tatler. Her work has also appeared in Glamour and Elle magazines.
Question: How has technology changed fashion?
Mays Powell: The ability for fabrics, I think the lightness of fabrics, obviously, with the global warming, nobody really wants to be in big heavy stuff all the time. And because the world is flat now, you want to be able to wear a sweater if you’re a little bit cold, in the summertime, if you travel and go to the southern hemisphere where it’s winter. So I think there’s been an enormous technology in fabrics, making them more lightweight and making them warm without being heavy. Again, I was just at the Marc Jacobs show and really touching the collection, personally, for Spring. And extraordinary [IB], fabrics that are one of a kind. And that ability to, I think, technologically innovate in fabrics has been an extraordinary development. [IB] Spring collection, 6 months ago that… was in the store 6 months ago. All those beautiful colored evening dresses were in polyester. You know, that used to be a dirty, naughty, bad, yucky, [errrrr] word. These dresses are divine. I bought a blue one, I mean, polyester is not what it used to be. It’s as delicate, it’s as sophisticated as the best silk on the planet. And I think in some ways, even allows more flexibility and fluidity and it’s a little bit more modern for women that’s, you know, packing a suitcase and traveling. Because it’s not quite as fragile and yet, it still got the drape and the fluidity that you would expect out of a natural fiber. So I think fabric technology, I think, is… is really changed a lot of fashion in the way we look at clothes and how we can design them, and how we like to feel in them. Just lighter, easier, and stretch… My God, what do we do before stretch? What did I do before stretched pants? Miserable. So just even that technology, which wasn’t around in my mother’s generation, really, is just fantastic.
Question: How is globalization affecting fashion?
Mays Powell: It’s making… there’re no isolated pockets anymore. You know, if you want to get the little black dress from Balenciaga and they don’t have it in New York, you can call around the world and try and find it. So I think there is an ability to shop wherever you want to go or, you know, go to [Neta Portet] online and buy it that way. If you’re in Dubai and you can’t get to the shops in Paris or New York or London or Milan or Tokyo or even Shanghai, you know, you can do it online. So I think, you know, you could access fashion from wherever you are.
Question: Is fashion in conflict with the environment?
Mays Powell: You know, without saying that green is becoming a kind of [IB] thing for everybody to hang there hat on, a little bit. You know, fashion isn’t that green probably. I think it’s becoming more so, I think Stella McCartney, you know, she doesn’t wear leather, she doesn’t believe in fur. None of the English designers promote fur. That, already, is a slight shift for animal rights, which is already closer to green than a lot of fashion designers. Miguel Adrover who was a big kind of force, as a kind of eclectic force in New York fashion a few years ago but couldn’t sustain his business, he’s a Spaniard from Majorca, is back, doing a limited piece collection for a German company called [IB] which is a green natural fabric and fiber company. I think fibers and fabrics are going to become greener. I think the kind of carbon footprint is going to be considered more… I think the idea of recycling, as I talked about, they way I kind of feel better about it. Giving back kind of charity, selling clothes, buying without… not just the kind of consumer, eating up, eating up, eating up, eating up, eating up cotton ball after cotton ball after cotton ball. But trying to find a way to recycle things, I think it’s a way that fashion will… I think it will happen slowly, slowly. There’s something antithetical to a really sexy stiletto shoe and being green, which by virtue, that sounds like a flat, sensible Birkenstock. So the two of them are not on the same page yet but I feel there’s a slight undercurrent that people are being a little more thoughtful and careful about their choices as they’re designing.