‘We need to be in it’: fashion labels vie for a role in Sex and the City | Fashion industry

After a bruising 10 months of store closures, falling sales, cancelled red carpets and nixed shows, the fashion industry finally had something to smile about this week with the announcement of the return of Sex and the City.

“Everyone has been talking about it. People are saying: we need to be in it,” one PR at a major fashion brand told the Guardian, expressing the sentiments of an industry that greeted the news with the enthusiasm of Carrie Bradshaw at a Manolo Blahnik sample sale.

Though the overall response to the controversially Kim Cattrall-free sequel has been mixed, the fashion response has been unequivocal.

“TV is huge for us at the moment,” said the PR Daisy Hoppen, whose clients include Molly Goddard – the designer of the frothy tulle-bomb worn by Jodie Comer’s Villanelle in the first series of the BBC’s Killing Eve.

“It’s becoming a bigger and bigger focus, especially this year, when red carpet moments aren’t the same, and TV has more visibility. As soon as a TV show is announced now we will try to work out who the team is, do lots of research. Costume designers are the new VIP stylists. But Sex and the City is particularly exciting because it is a show that revolves around fashion.”

Jodie Comer wearing a pink Molly Goddard dress in Killing Eve
Jodie Comer wearing a pink Molly Goddard dress in Killing Eve. Photograph: Bafta/PA

The original series made international stars of fashion figures such as Blahnik, who appeared in the show.

Though it is unlikely to have the same cultural clout as the original, now that the entire industry has been glossed in Sex and the City’s image, an appearance in the new series – which is called And Just Like That – could be even more lucrative.

“A great placement on a show will be tweeted, Instagrammed, blogged about, vlogged about – this is powerful. While monoculture no longer exists in the same way, this show will be instantly global, and imagery of it will be everywhere,” said Lauren Sherman, a chief correspondent at the Business of Fashion website.

Olivia von Halle, a designer specialising in luxe pyjamas whose clothes have appeared in Killing Eve and Sky One’s I Hate Suzie, is one of many hoping for the seal of approval. “It would completely blow my mind. For my generation, Sex and the City changed the way we thought about female friendships, sex, and definitely made me more fearless in fashion.”

The question of how to reflect the zeitgeist during this sad, constantly shifting moment, is far from simple – and goes well beyond whether the actors should wear face masks or explicitly refer to Covid.

Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw
Designs worn by Sarah Jessica Parker in the show ‘will go instantly global’, says one fashion expert. Photograph: Landmark Media/Alamy

“The 1990s was a very exciting decade for fashion with lots of movements and designers – from deconstruction to grunge to theatrical couture, everyone from Margiela to McQueen,” said Valerie Steele, the chief curator of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. “There were a lot of opportunities for the costume designer Patricia Field to riff on fashion. By contrast, the 2020s are still in flux with many problems, so using fashion to show the zeitgeist would be difficult. I don’t see the girls in sweatpants.”

For Harris Reed, the 24-year-old best known for their work with Harry Styles, notably the frothy skirt, crinoline hoop and tailored blazer worn on Styles’ US Vogue cover shoot, appearing in the show would be “out of this world. I watched the show with my mum literally every day. It was where I first learned the word ‘Manolo’.”

The show’s wardrobe could have power beyond the visual, too. “I think it would be incredible for them to be using a lot of young queer artists and artists that are activists. The cultural impact of that would be massive, bringing a strong and powerful message that Sex and the City supports an idea of queer fabulousness and fluidity,” Reed said.

Similarly, in a time when it has become customary for high-profile figures to use “sartorial diplomacy” to telegraph their values through their clothing choices, the show might be wise to feature small, sustainable labels and champion black designers. this year’s answer to the Fendi Baguette bag, for example, could be the $150 (£110) so-called Bushwick Birkin from the gender neutral label Telfar.

And rather than running up credit card debt shoe shopping, Bradshaw might use a peer-to-peer rental service. Peta has already issued a press release urging the show not to use real fur, which the character may take onboard – while showing her commitment to sustainability – by wearing designs by Gabriela Hearst or Stella McCartney.

There is also the question of whether the women will still wear heels – at a time when trainers have never been more on trend – but few could imagine Bradshaw perennially in flats. “Though I imagine Amina Muaddi will get some airtime,” says Sherman, “Manolo is eternal.”

These decisions will fall to the costume designer, who is yet to be confirmed (Field told the Guardian she had “no commitment as yet”).

Rebecca Weinberg, who was Field’s co-costume designer on the original series, said whoever ended up designing the show should resist allowing it to become a ticker tape of huge brands, a charge that was levelled at later series and the subsequent movies.

“Everyone wants these bougie names,” she said, “but unless you can do it in an elegant way, mix it in, it takes away from the artistry. Working with smaller brands, you have the opportunity to change someone’s life. And that’s a responsibility.”