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Jeffrey Kalinsky on NYFW & The Next Big Thing in Fashion

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There really isn’t much that happens within the wide and wonderful world of fashion that Jeffrey Kalinsky doesn’t know about. As Nordstrom’s VP of Fashion as well as the force (and the name) behind his own two highly notable shops in New York and Atlanta, he seems to know whenever one of the world’s top designers adds a belt or subtracts a floral pattern.

BRANDON MAXWELL -10Models backstage at the fall 2016 Brandon Maxwell show; last year at this time, Jeffrey
selected the NYC designer as the one to watch. 

And as a member of the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund advisory board, he keeps close tabs on emerging designers as well. So when you want to know what’s up, you go to Jeffrey—that’s what we do, after all. With New York Fashion Week coming in hot—it kicks off September 8—what we wanted to know is who’s going to emerge this season as fashion’s next big thing.

THE THREAD: Last season you mentioned you had your eye on Brandon Maxwell before the week began, and look at him now; he’s on the fast track to household-name status. Is there anyone you’ve got your eye on for this next round of shows, someone you think might be inching out ahead after their show?

They’re not necessarily new, but I’m really curious to see how the CFDA might have helped Brock Collection designers Kristopher Brock and Laura Vassar. They’re doing really well—we carry them at Jeffrey—but in terms of getting that real publicity and exposure, and getting more attention from more retailers, I’m curious to see how this season goes for them.

In your experience, how often does a really promising newcomer come around? Is there someone each season who seems to carry that promise? Looking back on your years of Fashion Weeks, what are some of your memories of up-and-comers making big moves and using Fashion Week to catapult into the next phase?

It just depends on how major you’re talking about someone becoming. The Brandon Maxwells don’t come along very often. I think of Proenza Schouler, Joseph Altuzarra, Alexander Wang—I remember seeing those collections early on, and they all faced a lot of challenges. It’s fun to see their work come along.

What I look for when I’m thinking about the new players are the ones who are ready for investment. I look for someone who’s got a clear vision and individual point of view. Whether I’m in New York or Paris or London or Milan, I look for a point of view that is simpatico to my sensibilities.

 FullSizeRender
A Brandon Maxwell look featured in our latest Designer Collections lookbook,
which was curated by Jeffrey Kalinsky
I’m sure you know better than anyone that the idea of an overnight sensation is a total myth, but has your experience with the CFDA designers changed how you think about the notion of the Next Big Thing?
What I know is that the Next Big Thing still requires a lot of nurturing and care. Real, true successes don’t come along every day, but that’s where the CFDA makes an extraordinary difference. Another one to watch is Adam Selman; I’m very curious to see how his involvement will shape his presentation.
—Laura Cassidy