‘I Try to Look as If I’m Not Trying Too Hard’

Posted February 7, 2018 7:33 p.m. EST

A designer may appear on the runway for only 30 seconds at the end of a show, sometimes merely poking her head out from backstage to wave (Miuccia Prada, Phoebe Philo), sometimes doing a full catwalk canter (Michael Kors, Alexander Wang). Either way, they all know people will be watching — and Instagramming. “We dress up and dress down on purpose,” said Roksanda Ilincic, a London Fashion Week stalwart. “We are all making statements.”

Here, nine designers reveal what they will be saying this season, and why.

Tory Burch, founder of Tory Burch, New York Fashion Week

What: “I like to represent the point of a collection, whether in a silhouette, print or color,” said Burch, who takes her bow in something from the collection, though not a look from the runway. Instead it’s one of the pieces that didn’t make it into the show.

Why: It’s a nice way to acknowledge the efforts of the design team, and it’s good for sales. “When we post on social media, there is more impact from my outfit than from others, and it becomes the No. 1 print in the store,” Burch said.

When: “A few days before the show, I pick a couple of things I like so I have options to choose from that morning,” she said.

Tommy Hilfiger, founder of Tommy Hilfiger, New York Fashion Week

What: Something from his own wardrobe that relates to his show, along with his vintage Levi’s. “For a nautical show, I’ll wear a nautical jacket, or if it’s more rock ‘n’ roll, like last season, I’ll wear a black leather motorcycle jacket,” Hilfiger said. “They could be from five years ago, two years ago, but it’s what I wear in real life.”

Why: “I want to be comfortable and authentic,” he said. “I’m in my 60s and don’t want to look like I’m in my teens, so I wouldn’t wear things like skinny jeans. And I want to show that I am accessible; I’m a more regular person than a fashion snob.”

When: The morning of the show or “maybe the night before if I’m traveling or it’s an early show.”

Simone Rocha, founder of Simone Rocha, London Fashion Week

What: A black and white dress or a skirt with pockets and Nike sneakers or flats.

Why: “The black doesn’t distract me when I’m working backstage,” Rocha said. “The skirt length allows me to move around, and I have always been a skirt rather than a trousers wearer, so this adds a level of femininity to a work uniform.” Pockets are “good for carrying my phones, headphones and lip balm.” Anything too decorative or fussy is avoided. “I like to be comfortable and feel like myself, so I don’t like being in brand-new clothes,” she said.

When: She makes her final decision the night before the show, having had the chosen pieces dry-cleaned. “It’s one less thing to think about the day of the show,” she said.

Joseph Altuzarra, founder of Altuzarra, Paris Fashion Week

What:Raleigh jeans, a tee, sweater and Adidas Stan Smith sneakers. His choices have stayed the same ever since his first collection in February 2009. This “gives consistency to how people see me,” Altuzarra said.

Why: “I try not to look as if I’m trying too hard,” he said. “I wear similar things every day, which are simple, last forever, are a good price and are comfy. I don’t wear something too out there or too specific.”

When: Altuzarra chooses his look the morning of his show. “I don’t want to feel too dressed up because it would be uncomfortable, and I don’t get a fresh haircut or have makeup done. It’s a continuation of who I am — someone who is down-to-earth.”

Anna Sui, founder of Anna Sui, New York Fashion Week

What: Pieces specially made for her or pieces from her collection that no one else has worn.

Why: Sui used to dress down for her runway bow until her mother admonished her, saying before a show, “Why don’t you dress like a designer should?” Ever since, Sui has tried to “step it up,” she said. “I now like to celebrate a little bit more.”

When: She changes in her office midafternoon, half an hour before she leaves for the show. Since last February, though, she tests her outfits in advance. At that time she was planning to wear a floral dress from her resort collection. “I tried it on and it was horrid,” she said. “It was too bright and flashy and would overshadow the collection.” At the last minute she put on a black fur coat from 2006 that she had in the office.

Special Ritual:A glittery red pouch with a carved coral ring her mother gave her for her first show and a black pearl ring her father bought for her. “It is my good luck charm, which adds security,” she said.

Olivier Rousteing, creative director of Balmain, Paris Fashion Week

What: “I stick to skinny pants and boots, sometimes with a jacket or white shirt depending on my mood,” Rousteing said. He likes to show skin because, he said, it gives him confidence, especially now that he runs the length of the catwalk. (At first he would only step out from backstage.) “Jackets can be formal and bland, so showing skin balances the formality,” he said.

Why: “You always remember the designers with a strong identity, like Yves Saint Laurent or Karl Lagerfeld,” he said. And there’s the commercial consideration: “Customers buy what I’m wearing after the show, and pop stars will want it, too.”

Lucky Charm: A charm bracelet including an evil eye from a Bali beach and a watch given to him by his father. “When you go on a runway for 30 seconds and receive some love and some hate, you want protection and comfort,” he said.

Roksanda Ilincic, founder of Roksanda, London Fashion Week

What: Dresses from previous collections and high heels.

Why: “It’s just who I am and what I normally wear,” Ilincic said. The high heels “make me more self-assured and dressed up,” she said. “Taking the bow is very intimidating, with everybody looking at me and judging my work.”

When: “I dress like I feel the morning of the show, so if I feel like dressing up, like I did for the spring-summer collection (in a silky red dress and boots), I will do so,” she said. “If I feel like not dressing up, I wear the coat that I usually have backstage.”

Jason Wu, founder of Jason Wu and artistic director of Boss womenswear, New York Fashion Week

What: For his own label: Acne jeans, an APC tee or an Undercover sweatshirt and Adidas or Converse white sneakers. For Hugo Boss: a Boss black silk suit and tie, white shirt and brogues.

Why: “At Jason Wu shows, I’m presenting as me because it’s my label,” Wu said. “At Boss, I’m representing another brand, which has its own DNA and men’s suiting, so I wear something that represents them.” The stress of each season affects his style choices. “If I’ve pulled an all-nighter, I’ll want to be as casual as possible,” he said.

When: “After 10 years, I’m comfortable in my own skin, so it’s last minute,” he said, adding that his wardrobe is all black, white and navy, he knows where everything is, and has multiples of everything, so it’s easy to choose an outfit at 6:30 a.m. on the day of his show.

Angela Missoni, creative director of Missoni, Milan Fashion Week

What: “I like to wear certain things from my wardrobe, like my trench, shirt, trousers, with black as a base because it is easy and I can wear color with it,” said Missoni, who adds a sweater tied around her waist or draped over her shoulders for pop.

Why: “I will wear old favorites that I haven’t worn for a long time or a new trouser and shirt bought during the season,” she said.

When: She starts thinking about her outfit a week before the show. “I’m not trying to impress the audience, but show the person I am, because if I am the face of the brand, I need to be believable,”she said. “I am working backstage, so I need to be at ease, but I also need reassurance because I will be running out in front of photographers and the most fashionable people in the world.”