At Fashion Week, UGG Ascended

In shockingly short succession, UGG has evolved from a brand derided by fashion to the biggest thing in cozycore since the Snuggie, except that UGG is actually cool. Proof: Fashion Week Fall/Winter 2023, where UGG dominated the runways in a major way.

Not that this is coming out of nowhere, to be fair. UGG is very much a power player in the biz these days.

UGG’s boots and slippers are seemingly recession-proof. Economic woes or not, the kids want their platform UGGs and they want them now (preferably protected by UGG’s boot guard, thanks).

Celebrities aren’t immune to UGG’s charmingly clunky shoes, either: both pop legend Cher and the late, great André Leon Talley lent their stately visages to UGG campaigns.

It goes deeper. UGG puts its money where its mouth is: the footwear brand has consistently championed creatives of color even when the greater fashion industry did not.

From Tremaine Emory and Shayne Oliver to Tschabalala Self, a cadre of cutting-edge talent has had its way with UGG and, in return, UGG has platformed undersung talent.

But UGG’s omnipresence at Fashion Month was still a bit of a surprise. I mean, you don’t frequently see so many brands simultaneously link with the same footwear company.

I see it as a victory lap. UGG has proven itself influential enough to sit at the cool kids’ table — now it’s ascended, showing everyone how to remain relevant.

It all began at Pitti Uomo, where Martine Rose hand-dyed cushy UGG slippers to her liking.

Then, in London, Saul Nash customized his puffy camp slides with Vibram soles while Ahluwalia zhooshed up insulated footwear with a dash of night-out elegance.

Notice that, again, UGG partnered primarily with designers of color, sponsoring their runway shows and giving them carte blanche to transform its shoes as they saw fit.

This is how UGG has become so organically ingratiated into the culture. It aligned and amplified emerging designers, who in turn expressed themselves fully.

Then, UGG slippers and boots appeared at Paris Fashion Week, first by way of Alice Vaillant’s puffball heels, and then at the first Vivienne Westwood runway shoe since its eponymous founder’s passing.

It sends a message.

UGGs, just like Westwood herself, are punk. Their obstinate uncoolness has made them cool.

Speaking of dedication to one’s own aesthetic, handbag genius Telfar issued another round of UGG bags on one of the final days of Fashion Month. It wasn’t part of the calendar but Telfar’s drop felt like a proper cap to the fashion festivities.

A sidebar: Telfar’s success is the result of decades of hard work. The New York designer didn’t just wake up one day with a marketable accessory; he thanklessly toiled for years until people noticed. By then, Telfar was already blazing a trail and culture had to keep up.

UGG’s success, though hardly on the level of Telfar’s achievement, can be viewed through a similar lens.

Like, it’s amazing that a brand can collaborate with the likes of Y/Project, Eckhaus Latta, and Heron Preston at the same time that its core product is setting trends and selling out.

UGG’s road to dominance recalls that of Birkenstock.

Both companies produced humbly effortless footwear that the fashionable elite reviled until the UGG boot and Birkenstock Boston became too desirable to ignore.

And it’s not like UGG nor Birkenstock changed much.

Yeah, UGG is less of a heritage label than Birkenstock, which means more emphasis on marketing and trendy new styles, but that alone a stylish brand does not make.

Otherwise, we’d be talking about, I dunno, those fleece-lined moccasins you see people wear to walk their dogs.

But those aren’t cool. UGG is cool. And extremely marketable.

Hence, UGG x Palace Skateboards.

Hence, nearly a half-dozen designers using UGGs in their Fall/Winter 2023 runway shows.

Not just UGG as you know it, either, but UGG slippers and boots recontextualized by cutting-edge designers’ distinct worldviews.

Other footwear labels ought to be tugging their collars.

The UGG-ly truth: it’s not that they’re getting it wrong, it’s just that UGG is getting it right.

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