For this year’s September issue, Vogue asked 100 people—from creative directors, models, and photographers to activists and CEOs—one simple (but also incredibly complex) question: What is the future of fashion? How would the way fashion is made, and the way that we all interact with it, change in the face of urgent calls for racial equity, an ongoing climate crisis, and the devastating effects of a global pandemic? We divided the answers into five chapters, which we have titled Creating Fashion, Sustainable Fashion, Buying Fashion, Responsible Fashion, and Viewing Fashion. Taken together, they reveal a wide-ranging portrait of our time while also pointing the way forward—to a different fashion calendar, a different protocol for production, and an altogether different relationship with clothes. Here, 30 models, designers, stylists and others weigh in on the future of Responsible Fashion.Ugbad Abdi, Model
Brands should understand the importance of assembling a team that is diverse and inclusive, both in front of and behind the camera. I’d like to see more thought being put into making models of color feel comfortable backstage, whether that’s in terms of the hairstyling or in creating safe spaces in which models feel they can speak up and be heard. More and more, I’m considering the brands I work with and whether their values align with my own. This is a moment in which we should all feel more empowered.Virgil Abloh, Designer, Off-White and Louis Vuitton (men)
I’m 39 years old, and it’s taken 39 years to get here, to prove my pedigree. I’m one of the few Black designers on the Parisian fashion calendar. There should be more Black design in the conversation, more of us showing on that schedule. Martine Rose, Samuel Ross, Grace Wales Bonner—these are friends of mine, and I know their pedigree for design is just as impressive as my own, if not more. They should be filling up the Parisian houses. I’m starting a scholarship under my name to put 100 Black kids into a wide range of historically Black colleges and accredited design schools in America—a wide spectrum. It’s not just inroads within the fashion industry that need attention—it’s like how I started, as a 17-year-old kid whose parents wanted him to be an engineer, and I said, “No—I want to be a fashion designer.” I mean, I started with a screen-printed T-shirt, and now I do what I do. It’s like, how do you even get on that path?Adut Akech, Model
If what’s happening in America isn’t a reality check and a wake-up call for a lot of people—for so many problems, from racism and colorism in fashion, in acting, in any field—I don’t know what will be.Jason Bolden, Stylist
It’s a moment for a reset—the clients and the hair and makeup people are all very careful who they partner with. They’re looking at their values. Brands are being a bit more inclusive about dressing people, and the talent is very conscious as well— does it need to be a major house, or could it be an emerging designer?
What I know for a fact—and what I can help shift—is that in order to be seen and heard, imagery is important. It makes us believe in hope and provides possibility. Once you discard images of Black people—a designer, a director, a writer, a CEO, a board member, a celebrity—that reality becomes less possible. Even without being told, you are being told that you don’t belong. It’s so simple: Every living person deserves an opportunity to live—without fear, or caution, or PTSD. As a Black male, to be recognized by Vogue for the first time, it’s a new step, a new journey. There are opportunities now—the unheard voices are being heard. But also: Let’s keep talking after this; talk to me about more than this.Andrew Bolton, Wendy Yu Curator in Charge, the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
What I’ve been hearing from independent and younger designers is a greater emphasis on the ethics of fashion—on conscious creativity and designing with intention; and on authenticity, craft, and artisanship. There’s also a greater realization of the power of fashion as a tool for cultural commentary, for social justice and activism; for telling very political stories that include notions of diversity and inclusivity. I’m not hearing as much about multiculturalism and transculturalism, which I wish I were, which would lead us into conversation about the decolonization of fashion. But certainly there’s much more thought going into notions of nonbinary, gender-neutral clothing and notions of hybridity with seasonless, ageless, genderless collections and smaller productions. Something else I found really encouraging among the young designers I spoke to: There’s no ambition to work for a big company or a large brand. They’re more content creating a way of working that suits them and their customers and allows them more control over their own narratives.Tory Burch, Designer
A purpose-led brand is so important: It’s the reason I started my company. I was always interested in women’s empowerment. How can we change the dynamic for women—in the workforce, certainly, but beyond? Very simply: Fashion can make someone extremely confident. When we hear that when a woman wears something of ours and feels more confident—that’s a win for us. Fashion can change outlooks.
The pandemic and the Black Lives Matter protests have brought people together. And when we come out of all of this, the concept of hearing people and embracing change and not going back to normal is going to be really important. In America, we’re facing something—systemic inequality—that is pretty dark and that’s always existed, but so many people are coming together. Certainly that’s happening within our own team. We can actually have tough conversations, or make conversations that are tough less tough. I want a workspace where people feel safe to express how they feel—to dream and escape and delve into creativity and feel passionate about what we’re making, but also feel that they’re being valued and heard.Telfar Clemens, Designer
We don’t want to speak for society, but for us, fashion is about envisioning a future that can help destroy the present.Maria Grazia Chiuri, Designer, Christian Dior
The explosion of activism in the U.S. that has spread throughout the world requires us to find a way to visually express ourselves— where we stand in a movement, what we think about an idea. The way we dress is a manifesto of the way we think; it reveals what is hidden behind the masks we wear. From now on, I expect people will be more and more aware that fashion is a very useful tool to make a statement, to take a stance. Fashion’s relevance comes from the power of clothing to be more than just clothing— to comment on contemporary issues and, possibly, to have a positive effect on them.Dapper Dan, Designer and Haberdasher
The industry needs a setup where they can nurture Black brands that are independent. I’ve always felt like an orphan in fashion because I never had that community or that corporate family. Everything I was doing was Black and brown from top to bottom, but at the height of my reach I did not have the mechanism to both remain independent and be global. My partnership with Gucci has been an example of being nurtured—they’ve helped me with the information and access I needed to expand internationally.
When it comes to racial inequality, I have to use one of Malcolm X’s statements: This year, “the chicken is going to come home to roost.” If people don’t take an active role in putting out the fire, they’ll eventually get burned. Fashion needs to make its moves now to ensure that the future is inclusive—we’ll all remember who has been helpful and who hasn’t once everything settles down.
I’ve been excited by everything that I’ve seen happening with Black Lives Matter—the protests and allyship. This did not happen in the ’60s; not like this. It was all organizations—the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the Congress of Racial Equality, the Weathermen—and upper middle class college kids marching alongside us. Now we’re seeing people uniting across classes to join this struggle. What I would like to see is us taking that energy to the polls, because we need to dismantle this administration. Even if we solve all our internal problems, as long as this administration remains in office there is still a power structure that can wipe out all the advancements we’ve made.Brandice Daniel, CEO and Founder, Harlem’s Fashion Row
When I started Harlem’s Fashion Row in 2007, speaking about race was taboo—and there were about three Black designers that had notoriety. Since then, race has become more comfortable to speak about, and we now have over a dozen well-known Black designers. Finally the fashion industry, which is supposed to be one of the most progressive in the world, is speaking about race—it’s easy to speak about diversity and inclusion, but race often gets left out of that conversation. The fact that major organizations have put action plans in place, and that brands are acknowledging the systemic issues racism has caused, is a major leap. Black people in fashion have been used as inspiration, revenue, and influence, but not been given the power to make real systemic change. I’m hopeful that we can change that, but I think we’re all skeptical. What will your racial diversity look like in your office in two years? I can only trust the brands that are willing to make a meaningful, long-term commitment.Cynthia Erivo, Actress
I think there’s a reason why my style team is all Black—they all innately understand who I am. There’s a reason why we make decisions together. More than anything, I’m going to keep looking for Black designers to keep enhancing what we do, to keep growing. Kerby Jean-Raymond is getting a lot of attention with Pyer Moss, but he deserves more. I want to see him everywhere—I want to see him on billboards. I’ve purchased a good few pieces from Anifa Mvuemba with her Hanifa label, who makes beautiful clothes—wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could see more women celebrated?Ashley Graham, Model
It is our duty to be advocates for change, and to use our platforms to amplify the voices that need to be heard. As an industry, it’s essential to give diverse voices a seat at the table to share their experiences and perspectives in order to help us listen, learn, and work together to build a better and more inclusive future. We need to create a pipeline of opportunities to ensure that BIPOC talent have access to leadership positions and resources for growth so that change can happen. We also need to hold each other accountable, which means continuing to call out injustice wherever we see it and demanding change from those in positions of power.Guillaume Henry, Designer, Patou
The food industry has changed so much. Posh restaurants used to be like churches—you worried about what to wear and you could barely speak—and then restaurants opened up that were biologique, seasonal; the waiters looked good, you can talk to the chef—if you’re allergic to something, they’ll change the dish. Fashion is still like churches: You enter a shop, and it’s too restrictive and unfriendly.
I wanted to do something inspired by this new gastronomy. I never understood why we were selling big coats in July—we need to buy now, shop now. I use a fairly small range of fabric, repeating them—why do we have to change the menu every season? We decided to do small collections—a max of three coats, because you don’t need 10. Our fitting model is an actress, and she has a real body. I want to speak to all women, no matter the age, the color, the body type.
What is happening today is this: We are killing some old system I never felt comfortable with: the star system—you have to work with this person or that person to be powerful? No. You’re powerful if you’re surrounded by good people. When I came to Patou, I hired people much younger than me. I needed to hear their music, breathe their air, otherwise I would be dead. In the past, fashion was telling people how to do things. Now there is no one way—there are a thousand ways. The idea of competition should disappear. Everyone should exist with their own singular voice.Simon Porte Jacquemus, Designer, Jacquemus
Fashion can be a very toxic environment for the people who work in it—that’s something we don’t talk so much about in the industry. When I first started at 19 years old, I was always surrounded by friends, so it quickly became important to me that everyone enjoyed their work and felt supported. You hear so many terrifying stories—but there is simply no excuse for abuse in the workplace. My main goal has always been to create a sense of family with my team, and to take care of this family—for me, that is part of what a modern, sustainable business looks like. It’s thinking about the human aspect from the beginning of the chain through to the end, and making room for everyone—not just the star.Tyler Mitchell, Photographer
We’re no longer having the conversation about platitudes and respectability and symbolism, because a Black or brown model is a symbol. The percentage of Black and brown models you have on your runway to feel safe from being called out is a symbol. We were speaking in symbols after Trump was elected. People were shaken and confused—there was a sense that we had to take these half steps forward to feel okay. Now we’re moving toward a whole new conversation—one in which I believe there should be a complete takedown of the really weak stilts that this huge skyscraper was built on. We’ve got to take a deep look at the actual way in which things function, the system on which things operate, and throw all that out of the window and rebuild from the ground up— that’s what I’m really interested in doing and seeingJanet Mock, Writer, Director
I believe in the power of beauty and fantasy, but I want to indulge in a designer’s vision that doesn’t force me to leave my politics, my people, and my perspective at the door. Fashion should make people feel good, and a designer should be thrilled to have all people—of all sizes, races, and genders— wearing their clothes. Oh—and I want to walk into a store without a stuck-up salesperson tracking me as I browse.
As a Black trans woman, I’ve fought and sacrificed to be comfortable in my own skin and to live unapologetically. The way I present myself to the world is integral to my self-expression, my identity, and my survival. We cannot ignore the fact that trans and gender-nonconforming people are so often discarded, dismissed, and demeaned by our culture because they push the boundaries and break the rules—all things that make us targets of violence—yet when cis folks in fashion co-opt our aesthetics, they are celebrated and compensated with everything from covers to campaigns.
Many design houses and labels simply refuse to dress me—and if they are unable to see the value in a talent like myself wearing their clothing, I do not see the value in their creations; I am not a person who can separate the creations from the creator. Ultimately, I wear creations from people who share my values and principles and believe in me as a cultural force. For my first Golden Globes in 2019, I wore an Off-White gown that made me feel like I was bringing so many parts of myself into that esteemed room. I have also worn pieces by Carly Cushnie, one of the few Black women designers, multiple times. It’s a whole other feeling to be armored in clothes made by your people—you feel you’re bringing them into the room with you.Anifa Mvuemba, Designer, Hanifa
I think there’s a lot of work that needs to be done [in fashion] in terms of being more inclusive, especially with Black designers. I’ve felt like an outsider. I still kind of feel like an outsider. It’s an elitist world.Ariel Nicholson, Model
Fashion’s ability to almost exist in the future—always looking forward and constantly in flux—is a powerful concept that can be re-directed towards sustainable health practices, diverse castings, and building networks that can truly exist and operate in the world today. Fashion can also serve as a mirror: When I wear an outfit that truly represents my inner world, I feel empowered because my feelings and identity are validated externally.
The trajectory of a model’s career is being shifted in ways that we can’t predict or comprehend right now. With less shows and more digital interactions, models will have more opportunities for exposure—many models don’t get show work because they don’t fit with the theme of the show or they’re too tall or too short. But as we shift toward digital interactions and social distancing, models will be able to showcase what they can bring to the table beyond a lineup or a theme, and they’ll have more opportunities, even if they wouldn’t be considered “runway” enough in a normal season. This will also be an amazing opportunity for diversity and accessibility to be prioritized.Teddy Quinlivan, Model
It’s impossible to tell what’s coming next, because we’re still in the symbolic stage of reckoning with our past. What I do know is that fundamental change won’t come from tearing down statues and banning flags. Whether in politics, police reform, or fashion, the people in power must be replaced for systemic change to begin. I’m hopeful to see new people rise to the top, but I’m doubtful the people who hold power in the present moment will be willing to relinquish it—that’s why there needs to be systems of checks and balances in place to hold those people in power to account. Where are the people of color in high-level positions? Where are the trans people on your staff? Sometimes a hypocrite is just a man in the process of changing, but most of the time it’s just virtue-signaling—and the fashion industry pioneered virtue-signaling.Law Roach, Stylist
I won an award last year, and in my speech I told the audience: You are persons of power and privilege—I urge you to give an opportunity to someone who doesn’t look like you. For the longest time it’s been the same group of people who style the campaign, who do the hair, who do the makeup, who make the decisions. The world is a bigger place now, but social media has made it smaller—we are in touch with cultures and people all around the world. It’s important, though, to realize that fashion is not a representative sample of how the world looks and how it operates. And so, to anyone who has the privilege to make decisions: Take a beat and think how you could change someone’s life. It’s not really about talent—it’s about opportunity. Black people have simply had less privilege than their white counterparts. We haven’t had the same starting line. That’s a fact— with statistics and data to prove it.
I have never been as optimistic as I am now—even if this movement of racial justice has just become a press thing for a lot of people, a Black Lives Matter hashtag. Their IG pages are now full of all the Black people they’ve ever shot. I would rather you wait and do something really meaningful with the culture of your brand, your company. Wait for the smoke to clear and the dust to settle, and then pledge your allyship.
[While my client] Zendaya and I have nurtured smaller and independent brands, I, too, have sometimes been guilty of not supporting enough brands owned by people of color—I have to be more conscious of the story I tell in order to move that needle the right way—to use my platform, my voice, and my quote-unquote power.
I got into this industry because I am a fan of the glamour, of the fantasy—that fashion can transport you! And part of me— that little Black boy from Chicago—wants glamour back: more hair, more diamonds, more bells and whistles! But the realist in me is thinking: Is that tone-deaf? More brands need to be allowed in the room and on magazine covers: When Christopher John Rogers gets a cover, privilege and power are moving away for a minute.Christopher John Rogers, Designer
In order to see meaningful change, there needs to be a complete reevaluation of why we make the work that we make, the voices that we listen to and give platforms to, and the communities and the values that we cultivate. Do they align with the future, or are they stuck 20 years in the past? There has to be a genuine interest in championing talent, not just hype—an investment in authenticity rather than mere clout. My generation is composed of children of the internet, and our world has become so much smaller because of that. We’re finding new, honest ways of connecting with each other, and creating work that resonates with our specific communities instead of trying to appeal to everyone.Martine Rose, Designer
Designers and creatives have known for some time that the system is broken, but all of a sudden it feels like—finally—no one can ignore it. We’re having to think in new ways—I’m thinking a lot about the supply chain, and how we can be more agile and modern; how we can build a future that looks resourceful and not extravagant. All of a sudden the idea of flying all these people all over the world for shows feels really wasteful and exclusive. The question is: How can we create the intimacy and excitement of the show, without the waste and pollution?Olivier Rousteing, Designer, Balmain
How do you connect and communicate with the people who are wearing your clothes? It’s about togetherness; it’s fashion as a social vision. Designers need to be the face of their vision: If you have something to say, say it—and if you don’t, better to stay silent. We need to be more real—don’t fake it. There will be a natural selection between brands that are just doing PR moves and brands that stand for something. Fashion won’t exist anymore if it is only fashion; I’m looking to bring more elements into my world that have nothing to do with fashion— art, entertainment. It’s more important than ever before to be thinking about Netflix, Apple, Google, YouTube—my platform shouldn’t be limited.
Fashion should be making us think about how to do better. We are no longer in a time of being the trend of the season. I don’t want to be cool—cool’s over. Chic’s over. You’re cool for two months these days; it used to be two years. Who wants to be part of that?Antwaun Sargent, Art Critic and Writer
Fashion is in a moment of introspection as we radically reimagine what we mean by luxury, high fashion, high art. Because part of the old definitions of fashion was about it being exclusive—and about excluding certain populations who have been making work. It’s not about giving up standards or giving up on certain ideas of fashion. They can and should live, but they should be experienced now through different people’s eyes—people who have been overlooked in the process of making contemporary fashion. I’m hopeful because the talent is there. The people who never thought they would get their work looked at are the people we should be looking to in this moment to help us reimagine our definitions of things like beauty and taste and desire.Antonin Tron, Designer, Atlein
In some ways, fashion has become a part of the entertainment industry—it reminds me of the music industry in the ’90s in a way, when so much was about having a hit: Singers would come up and then just disappear. It’s a little bit like that right now with fashion. Someone gets really hot, and then they just vanish.
But I can’t help but feel positive—I mean, I am French; I don’t have a problem with being negative [laughs]. The crisis swept us off our feet quite early. We couldn’t make the summer delivery, and as stores cancelled we had to let people go. It interrupted our cash flow, so we are going to skip spring 2021 and to use everything we have on hand so that the next season, which we will present in January, will be 100% deadstock. I am going to have to work differently, to go back to [fashion’s] essence. It’s not couture, but it’s a focus on dresses which are special—I’ll go more into cut and development and make more of the collection myself. I will do two collections a year, not four. What we need is less product—there are only so many things you can make, and that’s okay. This idea that you have to have a million ideas to be creative—that’s really not possible. There’s no need to do so much. Rarity is something we need to look at.
The maintenance of oppression to make the system work—that’s the last gasp of a system that needs to be swept aside; it’s a global fight against oppression. That’s why I think this is a good moment. We [Extinction Rebellion; Tron is a member] did something with Justice pour Adama—Adama Traoré was a Black man killed in France four years ago, and his sister Assa Traore started this movement. We did a really great action, blocking a mall in Paris—a convergence of a fight against a toxic system. What we have needs to go to create space for fairness, so everyone can live decently—and just live, basically. We see the systemic racism in the U.S., but Europe is no better. That’s one of the things we [in Extinction Rebellion] believe in: decolonize and decarbonize.Dries Van Noten, Designer
I certainly didn’t imagine that at 62 I’d have to try to reinvent how fashion is going to be made, sold, worn—all those things. But no complaints: We are strong; we survive. My creative team, who are a lot of young people, are super excited about it—they embrace change. The next two fashion shows are going to be digital. With a live show, you have to apply the rules of social distancing, and with all the hair and makeup, you need a backstage that is 10 times bigger than the front. It’s impossible. But we are really storytellers—along with showing the tactile aspect of the collection, we love to tell a story with our fashion show. We are also making the collections smaller, working in a more sustainable way. It’s exciting—it doesn’t feel like a punishment or a restriction. When you see the way that we worked before—sometimes, not always—I mean, what were we thinking? Why did we make all this? I think the clients are also going to look at collections in a different way—they’ll want to know why certain garments are more expensive or more special. We’ll have to see—after a season when nearly everybody was wearing an easy sweatpant and a hoodie—what the needs are for the next season. Do people want to forget a little? When you compare the time we are in now, with Boris Johnson and Donald Trump and everything that’s happening, I think escapism stays important. People will still want to wear easy garments, but I think they will still want to dream and desire, and to go to another world of beauty.Julie Wainwright, Retailer, The RealReal
We have been working to not just raise awareness with our consumers and designers about sustainability—we still have a long way to go in explaining the importance of resale—but also to start impacting public policy so that our lawmakers understand the importance of a circular economy. And we’re not alone: People like Ellen MacArthur of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation continues to do amazing things in changing the laws in the EU to produce a more sustainable planet. We have some work to do in the U.S. with policy—that is going to be our next mission.Grace Wales Bonner, Designer
My mission has always been to elevate a Black cultural perspective within a European luxury framework. I think aspects of that mission, particularly as it pertains to changing the location of Blackness within fashion, have changed so much over the last five years. There’s an emergence of young designers who are really representing their heritage and cultural perspective, and there seems to be more diversity.
I’ve been taking this time to reconnect with my values and my vision for the brand. The next chapter is to claim that space within the culture, recognizing the beauty of old-school maisons and the idea of luxury, but showing another perspective within that.Anok Yai, Model
It used to be that racism was the elephant in the room. Now people are saying and seeing things for what they are—they’re demanding change. Models aren’t holding back when it comes to speaking up, and I think that those who aren’t willing to change are going to be left behind. I see models speaking up against brands, whether in terms of racism or mistreatment, and it feels like there is a snowball effect under way—that the whole industry is coming together to change things. That said, issues of racism and inclusivity have been brought up so many times before, with only very small changes happening as a result. Now that the whole world is talking about this, though, I’m hopeful—but I’m nervous. If this doesn’t change the industry, then I don’t know what will.
Interviews conducted by: Taylor Antrim, Brooke Bobb, Laird Borrelli-Persson, Hamish Bowles, Emily Farra, Mark Guiducci, Mark Holgate, Luke Leitch, Marley Marius, Chioma Nnadi, Janelle Okwodu, Nicole Phelps, Liana Satenstein, Chloe Schama, Emma Specter, Sarah Spellings, Lauren Valenti, and Steff Yotka.