7 American designers to know ahead of the 2022 Met Gala
Marc Jacobs / Halston / The Row
Only eight months have gone by since the 2021 Met Gala themed In America: A Lexicon of Fashion took place and saw several attendees seemingly dropping the ball on interpreting and executing the theme with any clear vision. The two-part series will continue on May 2nd when this year's gala debuts with the theme In America: An Anthology of Fashion.
According to Vogue, the continuation is "built around the tenets of American style, and celebrates unsung heroes of US design" while asking the question, "Who gets to be American?" With the theme more focused on inclusivity and, frankly, more clearly defined, we're expecting to see even grander visions executed with flair and ingenuity.
Ahead of the gala, we've chosen to spotlight some of our favorite American designers who've woven golden textile paths that inspire, innovate, and push the envelope on what we know as American fashion. We don't expect everyone here will be showcased this time around but felt their contributions to style were important to know so as to provide context for what we hope to see at the 2022 Met Gala – plus we love an excuse show off our favorite designer pieces you can buy right now.
Roy Halston Frowick, mononymously known to fashion acolytes as simply Halston, was a fashion innovator who rose to fame during the 1970s and was known as a glamorous mainstay on the New York City nightlife scene in addition to his sartorial work. You could often find him carousing at the infamous Studio 54 with the likes of Bianca Jagger, Liza Minelli, and Andy Warhol, and his clothes were adored by club patrons and chic urban women who enjoyed the dramatic silhouettes of his dresses and jumpsuits – often crafted from stunning metallic fabric – synonymous with the nightlife culture of NYC's disco era.
While Halston died tragically of the AIDS-defining Kaposi's Sarcoma in 1990, his legacy remains as one of American fashion's reigning influential historical figures. The clothing lives on in modern shapes fit for the cosmopolitan woman, like the inspired asymmetric top seen here. Through simple but impactful pieces like this, Halston continues to inspire across generations while remaining true to the original dream of the visionary behind the clothes.
Iconic designer Anna Sui hails from Detroit, Michigan, a rock n' roll hot spot that imbued the spirit of her designs with an irreverence that continues to echo throughout her clothing, footwear, and accessories today. Sui reportedly knew by the age of 4 that she'd grow up to become a designer, and after graduating from Parsons in the 1980s and struggling to flourish in the age of power dressing, she and her contemporaries such as Marc Jacobs (more on him in a minute) and Todd Oldham used the burgeoning grunge movement as inspiration to carve a new path for fashion that saw oversized garments that hide the body's natural lines, messy makeup, and a purposely androgynous, thrifted aesthetic became the dominant look of the era.
Grunge was nothing if not the then-newest iteration of punk, and Sui continues to create irreverent clothing in that rebellious spirit alongside international legends like Vivienne Westwood for a modern take that incorporates bold colors, unexpected seams and shapes, and unconventional ensembles to build a flippantly fantastical stylistic universe in which she controls the strings.
A favorite example of ours currently available on Sui's website is this rainbow mesh top, part of a larger collection of mesh items for which the designer is partially known. Its array of bright colors creates a wild but wearable look that can be paired with the coordinating skirt and bright sandals for a head-to-toe statement outfit or toned down with a simple pair of jeans and loafers.
Marc Jacobs started out as a shop boy at 15 and quickly ascended the ranks of the fashion elite by attending Parsons and soon becoming the youngest person ever to receive the industry's highest tribute, the Council of Fashion Designers of America's Perry Ellis Award for "New Fashion Talent" in 1988. This led to a creative director/vice president and president position at Perry Ellis, and Jacobs did the unthinkable (at the time) by designing a grunge collection for the brand in 1992 that got him canned.
That didn't slow him down, though, and his eponymous line, long-running secondary line Marc by Marc Jacobs, and now Heaven, a line that utilizes signature Marc elements to create youthful, fun collections that pay give younger consumers context for the breadth of the designer's career at a price point that's more attainable for the average wearer. We're huge fans of this line at Wishlist and have included several pieces, including a newer knit dress you can find in our summer style guide.
We've chosen to use the silver dress above to showcase Marc Jacobs' use of timeless fabrics and silhouettes to create lasting looks that are as morphable as they are chic. The pairing with chunky boots might be unexpected with other designers, but for the designer's loyalists, it's simply the perfect equation to looking as NYC cool as your average Marc wearer – and we hope to see plenty of them on the red carpet on gala night.
Originally from Queens, NYC, Telfar Clemens is a Liberian-American designer who is known for instantly selling out the brand's iconic shopping bags, such as the one you see here. He has worked with everyone from Solange on her interdisciplinary performance at The Guggenheim to fast food chain White Castle, for whom he designed uniforms servicing over 400 franchises.
Expecting the unexpected is par for the course with an innovator like Telfar. Vogue covered the designer's recent fashion week installation in downtown New York City, an event the magazine describes as "somewhere between a fashion show, public-access TV, and performance art, last night’s [February 15th] event was a full-on 90 minute immersion into the freewheeling creative world of Telfar."
We've chosen to display one of Telfar's shopping bags as homage to their ubiquity among trendsetters in the NYC street style scene. Current apparel offerings might be a bit casual to show up on the Met Gala carpet, but Telfar Clemens is already an established force on a star trajectory and belongs on your list of who to watch if you're even casually inclined to stay abreast of trends.
It's tempting to skip the blurb and simply past Tom Ford's resumé here instead, but we'll stick to some high points: He graduated from the renowned Parsons (like Anna Sui above), he spent several years as the creative director behind legacy houses Gucci and Yves St. Laurent, and in addition to launching his massively successful eponymous line in 2005, he also directs movies! And we aren't even going to get into his heaven-sent perfumes – thought we already did here if you want to read more.
Ford's style has been described as "sexy, sophisticated, and timeless," often with an emphasis on a defined waist or slinky draping that flows over curves in a fluid manner. The T-Shirt Dress seen here is a perfect example of taking something mundane – the white tee – and cheekily using the body to enhance the sensuality of an otherwise mundane garment. It ties into his controversial use of nude female models to sell products, a stance on which Ford has said:
"I'm an equal opportunity objectifier. I’m just as happy to objectify men. The thing is, you can’t show male nudity in our culture in the way you can show female nudity. We’re very comfortable as a culture exploiting women, but not men. But I don’t think of it as exploitation.”
Everyone loves a good glow-up, and going from "playing Michelle Tanner on Full House" to "fashion industry super-players" is a pretty good upgrade if you ask us.
Mary-Kate and Ashely Olsen launched The Row in 2006 after appearing as front-row staples at all the big fashion shows for a huge chunk of the aughts. It began as an experiment by Ashely to create the perfect tee shirt, eventually testing the style on a multitude of body shapes and sizes and eventually leading to the sisters' first seven-piece collection that included leggings, a tank dress, and the inspiring tee.
Today, you can find that same commitment to perfected basics stamped all over The Row's collections. The Egli Jeans pictured here are a '90s-inspired take on everyday denim, built to last with ample room for moving about comfortably thanks to wide legs and a moderate rise. While the price points are certainly in the high-fashion range, the company's garments are meant to flatter the body and withstand the test of time, regular wear, and ever-changing trends.
At just 36 years old, Christian Siriano is still a very young, fresh designer who rose to fame after winning the fourth season of the fashion competition show Project Runway. His design aspirations began at 13 when he was working as a hair washer and styling assistant in a local salon, later sewing clothes for the salon's hair shows.
Siriano interned for legendary the British fashion houses of Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen, the latter of whom he has called his favorite designer. That inspiration can be seen throughout his collections, primarily in his ability to work with a woman's figure to create something structural and bold, yet flattering with an extremely feminine edge. You can see this sensibility echoed throughout his collections, even in the curvy, rose-shaped bottle that holds his sensual fragrance Ooh La Rouge, a favorite of ours here at Wishlist.
The tuxedo dress above carries his signature feel. One-shoulder looks have hit runways and filtered down through ready-to-wear lines for several seasons now, but few are doing so in such a business-savvy and powerful shape as this one. Its versatility as a little black dress makes it wearable in nearly every situation by simply swapping in different accessories to accentuate or downplay the "executive realness" structure and let your own unique personality shine through.