Take a look at Tory Burch’s colorful Spring/Summer 2022 collection and you wouldn’t exactly consider it to be sportswear. Today, that’s a word often reserved for spandex separates or cozy sweats. But, this season, Burch turned to Claire McCardell, an American fashion designer during the ‘40s and ‘50s, who helped to pioneer this more comfortable aesthetic, as a source of inspiration.
“Her designs instilled a sense of freedom, encouraged self-expression and empowered women with a casual elegance that is as relevant today as it was in the late 1940s,” Burch explained in the show notes. Blending both retro details and modern forms, the collection was colorful, elegant, and effortless. Burch also included two shoes originally created by McCardell: a flat made with Capezio in 1953, and a striped boot. Taking place a day before the 2021 Met Gala, the show expands upon this year’s theme — In America: A Lexicon In Fashion — by honoring the often-overlooked impact of American designers throughout modern history.
Burch often looks to inspiring women throughout history as a source of inspiration (Princess Diana and Lee Radziwill have served as muses in recent years). But, this time, she went beyond simply creating a collection inspired by McCardell — the designer also announced the Tory Burch Claire McCardell Fashion Fellowship at the Maryland Center for History and Culture, where the late fashion designer’s archives are kept.
Burch’s show was not only an acknowledgement of the distant past. The designer chose to close down New York’s Mercer street, where her new boutique is located, to present her latest collection, filling the cobblestoned block with booths from local vendors (from Maman for matcha lattes, to Housing Works where showgoers could pick out used books). After a year in which many local businesses found themselves struggling to stay afloat, it was an act of solidarity for the downtown community.
The collection itself, while meant to be comfortable, was not one marked by fitted stretch pants or sporty separates. Instead, full skirts were favored throughout — with contrasting colors and bold stripes paired together in unexpected and elegant ways. Models moved easily across the street — a testament to both the clothes and footwear shown at the event. While much of recent fashion has focused on a swing from the comforts of at-home style to the fun of going-out clothes, Burch’s collection highlights the idea first presented by McCardell way back when that dressing up can still embody an effortlessness and ease ... sans spandex. “It’s about highlighting someone who had such an extraordinary impact on fashion over all, and in such a short amount of time,” she told Vogue. “To me, what’s amazing is that she let women feel unencumbered.”