New York Fashion Week’s fall 2023 runways are convinced that no pants are the best pants. Designers from Christian Siriano to Simkhai have sent their models down the runway in nothing but briefs, a big blazer, and maybe some sheer black tights. But the most compelling endorsement for the emerging no-pants trend, I found, came from Coach front row guest Camila Mendes.
Mendes, star of the CW drama Riverdale and Netflix comedy hit Do Revenge, caught up with me ahead of Coach’s fall 2023 show at the Park Avenue Armory on Monday afternoon. She arrived in a look that sneakily previewed the downtown-goes-uptown attitude of Coach’s upcoming collection: an oversized black aviator jacket with voluminous pockets, “do not replicate” key earrings, preppy loafers toughened up with studs and a big C logo, and underneath the accessories, a plain black bralette and high-waist briefs.
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It’s a look that both intimidates and impresses me, as an editor with a penchant for floral dresses and quiet suits. Mendes radiated an easygoing confidence amid the chaos of pre-show seatings and photocalls around her. Her outfit, she said, was a matter of proportions, kismet, and feeling herself. “I love picking one oversized thing and then balancing it out,” she told me. “We were going to wear shorts underneath this, but then I saw this little high-waisted underwear and thought, ‘Maybe I’ll just do that.'”
“It’s sunny outside. I feel pretty energized,” she continued with a grin. “And being a petite, short person, I feel like high-waisted pants or shorts, high-waisted underwear, is a move.”
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Mendes further accessorized with a Coach flex: a black Pillow Tabby bag, heir to a hashtag with 12.7 million views on TikTok and the adoration of seemingly everyone who carries it.
The actor is likewise “obsessed” with her Tabby. But like plenty of other millennials, she knew Coach before its current online revival. “My first Coach bag was my first designer bag ever. It was a pink little shoulder bag with the Cs all over it and I have a photo of it [where I’m sitting] cross-legged, wearing all pink, when I was in fifth grade,” Mendes reflects. “I was obsessed with that bag and I still have it somewhere. I gotta find it.”
There have been a lot of style eras between that formative bag and her Coach show look. Mendes says she’s lately been drawn toward elevated basics, some provided from her on-set wardrobes. In her forthcoming romantic comedy Upgraded, hse plays a character whose style is influenced by the minimalism of the downtown New York City art world, with black trousers and pointy-toe heels to match. From that set, there were “a bunch of little, simple basics that I really loved, that I got to take home with me,” she said.
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Later this year, Mendes’ seven-season run on Riverdale is coming to an end with the series finale. The show’s ending and a slate of as-yet-to-be-divulged producing and acting projects after are an invitation to start fresh, personal style included. As her work evolves, “I definitely have a goal of maturing my style and starting to approach style from a place of timelessness,” she says. “Because as I get older—I’m in my late twenties—I don’t want it to be wearing just quick trends and things like that.”
Could the no-pants look could eventually become one of those enduring outfit formulas? Mendes joked that it can’t get more minimal than vintage high-rise briefs, a coordinating top, and a jacket. Besides, wearing what speaks to you, when you want to wear it, is the only fashion edict that never falls out of style. Mendes knows it, and I’m newly inspired to follow suit—pants optional.
This article originally appeared on Harper’s BAZAAR US.