Recognisable outside fashion shows thanks to her signature sharp-lined bob and head-to-toe black attire, Olivia Singer is a forceful presence in fashion media. Formerly the fashion news director at British Vogue, she became the global editorial director of i-D late last year. Singer, who is London-based, can usually be found on the fashion circuit, from Milan to Miami. Her perspective on all things sartorial comes across as uncompromising, deeply passionate, and quite simply, cool.
To what extent do you think fashion is about proposing and selling dreams? How might this have a positive effect on people?
I think, at its best, fashion is both a mirror and an agitator of our reality; that the best designers both reflect and challenge the world we live and dress in. On a consumer level, there’s absolutely an element of fantasy within that: of the opportunity to immerse ourselves within the persona or place we aspire to inhabit, or to visibly affiliate ourselves with certain stories. Even as an observer, it can open our eyes to new ways of living and dressing and being, new identities, new cultures. It’s easy to sell the idea that your life will be a bit better if you buy a newer handbag; but I think the best fashion extends our dreams beyond just our purchasing power and can broaden our horizons and how we understand our identity. The broader that horizon, the better.
What do the dreams that emerge through fashion and creation tell us about our reality?
I think they can help articulate who we want to be, who we want to affiliate ourselves with both publicly and privately, and how we want to navigate and be understood in the world. Rei Kawakubo speaks about her derision for “easy clothes” – ones worn without thought – and how they have no point of view. I love that. I love technically easy clothes, too – after two years in a tracksuit, I’d be hard pressed not to – but I like that very concisely articulated idea that buying and wearing fashion can, at its best, channel a deeper perspective or express a fantasy of oneself.
What is one trend or item of clothing that will define the coming year?
I just don’t know if I believe in trends, particularly not ones that last a year. I loved seeing everyone sending out sexy clothes last season; after the time in a tracksuit, it was a huge relief to think about getting dressed up to go out and feel good again. I also think that, after so long isolated, when so many of us didn’t really get dressed in the morning anymore, it will feel exciting to be expressive in what we wear. In the spirit of both, I just want to wear skintight oil slick Rick Owens – dystopian but sexy – but I don’t suppose much has changed there. I hope that’s what defines my coming year, though.
How does the visual you’ve supplied speak to your dreams of fashion?
I think Virgil made his own dream of fashion a reality and, at this show, I felt like I was watching the world change on a runway in front of me. His fashion was inclusive – of race, genders, sexualities, perspectives, class, size, abilities – and he made that material for us all. He inspired me to dream bigger, to dream better, and to work harder to make mine come true.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.