Is Boston in fashion? These people say yes
Let’s take a walk down the block. It’s Boston Fashion Week, so let’s walk the runway.
I didn’t even know Boston had fashion week. Because let’s face it, this isn’t exactly a fashion capital of the world. But even if GQ once ranked us as America’s Worst Dressed City — yes, it did — that doesn’t mean we’re lacking in style.
To find it, we headed to Newbury Street with Jay Calderin, an author and educator who founded Boston Fashion Week in 1995 to increase awareness of the local fashion scene after moving to Boston in 1989.
“Ironically, I wanted to get away from my fashion career in New York City,” Calderin said. “And I was like, oh, I’m just not going to think about fashion and I’m just going to live in a beautiful city.”
It was a good plan – to go to the least fashionable place in the country to not think about fashion. But it did not work.
“I was surprised,” Calderin said. “Within a few months I had met all these incredible fashion professionals, designers in the beauty industry, incredible fashion photographers and models from multiple agencies. It was that community. But I think because the reputation was so strong, it didn’t get the visibility it really deserved.”
In 2017, an illustration in The Boston Globe showed an evolution of our style as a variation of button-down, khakis, down vest and those sad looking brown loafers. In my experience, we don’t all dress like we’re going camping all the time. And even for those of us who do, it’s a reflection of who we are.
“Bostonians have always had a sense of style. But I think the reputation of boiled wool in Beacon Hill has been overtaken by the fact that more and more Bostonians are exploring fashion as a way of expressing themselves,” Calderin said. “And I think part of that is the fact that we’re such an international city.”
Walking through the many shops and stores in Newbury, we found hundreds of fashionistas, from practically inclined in Talbots and fashion-avoiding in Amazon and Costco to one guy with some spiky Louboutins.
“It’s just luxury,” said Victor Bonillas, who wore black Christian Louboutin boots studded with sharp studs. “It’s not really comfortable, you know what I mean?”
Calderin says this is a part of town where you can find a little bit of everything, from luxury brands like Hermes and Chanel closer to the public garden to local boutiques like Soo Dee and Cattivo, not to mention Fast Fashion retailers like Zara and H&M that attract a younger crowd.
We met Megan Sharma, who wore a pink sundress and white cowboy-style boots.
“I thought it would be a nice change, something western,” Sharma said. “And then these pink earrings, it’s like the same color scheme. And they’re from Buffalo Exchange. I like keeping up with trends and just looking good.”
Calderin said that even people who aren’t into fashion still have a personal style and our clothes reflect our mood.
“For example, on a rainy day you either want to blend in with the day and go for dark colors and just be practical; or you’re feeling good and you just want to wear the brightest of colors — you want to be a beacon during the day,” Calderin said.
This worldview also extends to building a wardrobe.
“When it comes to buying the things that we want, I think there’s a range,” Calderin said. “Maybe you want to do really high quality things and investment pieces, more crafts, sometimes maybe a bit of fast fashion. I think it’s more about what we want to say about ourselves on that particular day, because when we leave home, it’s that tool that immediately projects a message.”
Some people wear a variation of the same theme every day. Calderin is one of them.
“I’m in the fashion industry, but I wouldn’t call myself a fashion person,” he said. “It’s a chore for me: jackets, t-shirts, jeans, sneakers. But where I have fun, it’s like socks or scarves or glasses, you know, things I can do where I can add a little color and say a little more about myself.
No judgment from me. A uniform is key, he said.
“If your goal isn’t to be the center of attention, then it’s really about making sure you’re comfortable, making sure you have pockets, you know, like all the practical stuff,” he said.
The pandemic has changed how many of us view our personal style. For example, I used to be concerned with finding the perfect pair of shoes to go with an outfit. I now own a pair of Crocs – and I love them.
Calderin said the pandemic has also rocked the industry, urging brands and consumers to think more sustainably, whether that’s by choosing clothes that use fewer resources, shopping at thrift stores or sifting through your closet.
“Ninety-five percent, if not more, of us don’t need anything else,” Calderin said. “What we currently have in most of our closets could theoretically last us for a very long time. This idea of giving clothes a different life, giving them a story, showing them new places, sharing new experiences and new memories – I think this way of thinking changes the way we buy clothes and how we deal with them .”