As senior archive editor at Vogue.com, Laird Borrelli-Persson is an invaluable source of fashion knowledge. When she is not reviewing rising and lesser-known designers, her articles explore obscure and epic moments in a contemporary context, reminding us – though never overtly – that a deep reservoir of creation flows underneath what we see on the runway today. Based in New York, she has authored several books on fashion, most recently Marimekko: The Art of Printing and Vogue: Fantasy and Fashion.
In what ways do you see exploration as a natural part of the design process?
Fashion is, by its nature, kinetic; and exploration propels design—hopefully in forward-thinking and responsible directions. Since the pandemic, the physicality of fashion seems more important, with materiality and touch coming to the fore.
What are some of the themes and ideas that you would like to see designers exploring through the next few seasons?
Despite being an archivist, I am not a fan of nostalgia in fashion, and I’d like to see designers break free of old tropes and really forge new visions of modernity. I don’t often recognise the ‘women’ designers say they are creating for – or their way of living. I believe in the fantasy of fashion, deeply; but for too long, I think we’ve overlooked that fashion is about people. When looking at student work, it seems that we are moving from postmodern design to a period of fashion as autobiography.
How have these past years shaped the way you explore fashion through social media and/or the virtual world?
In my opinion, it’s wonderful that designers can choose the format they want to show in, and that they can move among different ones, as not all collections are served by a runway show. It’s also interesting to see how designers’ creativity is expressed in different media. What digital cannot replicate is the feeling in the room, the conversations in shared cab rides; the atmosphere, aura, and fragrance of fashion, in other words.
How do you, personally, explore what’s new and exciting in fashion?
The five senses! I am always asking why and trying to find connections among things. My husband and my 13-year-old son are great sources, as is Instagram, but also photo and newspaper archives. And I still read books! I should add that not everything exciting in fashion is new. For me, how the past relates to the present is always interesting.