If there has ever been a reminder that no one is immune to global warming, it was the arrival of New York Fashion Week amid the hottest summer on record. Faced with 90-plus degree temperatures, humidity levels reaching well over 85 percent, and biblical downpours, many showgoers gave up on fall outfits in favor of looks that would minimize sweat, repel rain, and transition neatly from the long days into the late nights. It is in this climate that a new must-have accessory has emerged: a motorized, handheld fan.
Of course, the gadget is nothing new. It is often used on film sets to keep actors’ makeup from running and has long been a staple of New Yorkers and tourists aiming to beat the heat. But it’s only been in the past couple of years that a street style star or influencer would deign to be spotted with one. Manual folding fans are, after all, far more chic—plus, Beyoncé’s Renaissance world tour has made the folding fan a staple this year. And while the analog version, too, has had a strong showing during the spring 2024 season (Pretty Little Thing provided folding fans at the unveiling of its Naomi Campbell collaboration and Diotima gave out fans to celebrate its debut presentation on the official schedule), the tiny mechanical version is slowly starting to shed its utilitarian image to become a wardrobe essential. (Campbell herself was spotted with one front row at Louis Vuitton’s men’s show last summer.)
“The fan is the hottest accessory of the season,” Rashad Minnick, a fashion editor at WSJ Magazine, told me with a giggle outside of the Diotima presentation in Chelsea. “The humidity has been a scorcher and a killer.” Minnick purchased his motorized Jisulife fan on Amazon, where a variety of these contraptions can be found. “I literally missed an appointment just to go get it, because it was needed,” he added.
New York magazine’s The Cut fashion market editor Roberto Johnson, meanwhile, opted for a handmade paper fan his boyfriend purchased for him in Tokyo as his fashion week must-have. Why did he choose a waxy, brick-red fan over a mechanical one? “Because I’m an old lady,” he said.
The next day, at Wiederhoeft’s East Village runway show, Cole Habersham showed off a baby pink handheld fan he bought a few days before flying out from his home in Los Angeles. “I have a lot of pink in my carry-on for this week, so it makes sense,” he said. “If I’m going to hold it, I might as well consider it an accessory.”
For his part, Vogue fashion writer José Criales-Unzueta, a proud fan carrier, showed off his own Jisulife model—this one, with “teddy bear ears and a little flashlight,” he said. “Last year, I was going to all these appointments in the middle of the summer for resort reviews and I was sweating, girl. I was starting to get to the appointments early to dry out in the elevator before going up.”
But the purchase of the fan “changed my life,” Criales-Unzueta added. “I use it at parties, on the subway, at shows—everywhere. I have no shame. The jig is up.”