(Photo:formal dresses online)Politics took centre stage on the autumn winter catwalks of New York and London fashion weeks.
There was no escaping the anti-Donald Trump sentiment during the New York collections, which ranged from the personal (no one wanted to sit next to Tiffany Trump in the front row) to more overarching statements about the impact on women’s rights of the Trump regime.
The activism began before the shows even started when the Council of Fashion Designers of America handed out badges supporting Planned Parenthood and leading fashion industry website the Business of Fashion distributed white bandanas promoting tolerance (under the TiedTogether initiative) to designers and attendees.
The most coveted invitation of the week, to Belgian designer Raf Simons’ gloriously minimalist debut show for Calvin Klein, came with a white bandanna and a note reading “unity, inclusion, hope and acceptance”.
As an outsider examining the troubled country, Simons delivered a sophisticated yet nuanced vision of America’s heartland that referenced everything from rodeo girls to majorettes and cowboys in a presentation that opened and closed to David Bowie’s 1985 song This Is Not America.
New Yorkers Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne of cult brand Public School parodied Trump’s “Make America Great Again” trucker caps with updated versions proclaiming “Make America New York” and sent utilitarian and military-influenced garments for both men and women down the runway.
The gender bending continued at Prabal Gurung’s poignant presentation. “What does it mean to say a woman should ‘dress like a woman’?” the Nepalese American asked in the show notes, referencing the way Trump is reported to like his female staffers.
Gurung answered that question by sending out models in T-shirts bearing feminist slogans including “My boyfriend is a feminist”, “Girls just want to have fundamental rights” and “Nevertheless, she persisted”. His models walked to a soundtrack of Aretha Franklin’s Respect and Lesley Gore’s You Don’t Own Me. Again, military and feminist references reigned supreme, this time via camouflage prints and designs that celebrated the female form in a way that was empowering rather than sexualising.
New York-based Australian label Tome has celebrated strong women with sophisticated silhouettes since its inception in Sydney in 2011, and Ryan Lobo and Ramon Martin’s 2017 autumn winter collection was no exception. Inspired by the anonymous feminist art collective the Guerilla Girls, Tome showed jackets cut across the breast line to “free the nipple,” shaggy alpaca knits, Peruvian capes and punk tartans that emphasised subversion in a collection aimed at countering the negative sentiment in America with a powerful sartorial statement.
“The outlook seems bleak and unpredictable and yet we are all individually and collectively charged with fighting for each other’s rights, so we must,” says Lobo. “You must always wear your heart on your sleeve. Everything you put on is a political statement.”
Sydney designer Dion Lee shares an equally strong view of womankind, although his is of a more structured and body-con variety. This season he loosened up, both figuratively and literally, with a show that referenced military uniform details and sportswear influences via tracksuits and oversize silhouettes. The designer said his collection reflected a newfound creative freedom following his recent move from Australia to the Big Apple.
Fellow Sydneysiders Zimmermann have always designed for empowered women – fans of the label include Beyonce and her younger sister, Solange Knowles – and the new collection from sisters Nicky and Simone Zimmermann was no exception. “The optimism of dawn, freedom, the feeling of possibility,” was how Nicky Zimmermann described the starting point for the range The Maples, named after one of the buildings used to house students of the Women’s College at Sydney University following World War I.
Think women appropriating men’s cricket whites and striped team blazers, along with oversize coats and slouchy jumpers.
“They had defiance and there was something a bit roguish about it all,” Nicky Zimmermann says.
Defiance also permeated the runway in response to Trump’s executive order banning travellers from seven Muslim majority countries. A hijab-clad Somali-American model walked for Kanye West’s Yeezy Season 5 collection and Indonesian designer Anniesa Hasibuan presented an entirely hijab show of iridescent gowns.
The case for diversity was also argued by plus-size models. Sometimes deployed as a novelty statement at fashion weeks, this time they seamlessly integrated with their more slender catwalk counterparts. Michael Kors cast Ashley Graham, the first plus-size model to appear on the cover of Vogue, while Gurung, who has designed a line of clothes for the plus-size label Lane Bryant, sent out Candice Huffine and Marquita Pring.
New York’s focus on politics of the body continued when two disabled models walked in the opening show of London Fashion Week. British design duo Teatum Jones cast Kelly Knox, who was born without the lower half of her right arm and Jack Eyers, whose leg had been amputated, to showcase their new collection called The Body. Citing the inspiration of “a love of human stories and rejecting the idea of the perfect human form”, the 2016 winners of Australia’s International Woolmark Prize presented their collection of cable-knit jumpers, bias-cut dresses with and flute-sleeve blouses to a soundtrack that including an extract from Meryl Streep’s speech at the Golden Globes denouncing Trump for mocking a disabled journalist.
Where New York designers are outraged by Trump, Britain continues to be vexed by Brexit. London Fashion Week began with uncertainty about Britain’s upcoming exit from the European Union articulated in organisers’ statements urging the government not to damage a sector that relies on the easy movement of products and people across European borders.
“Fashion week is a really great time to understand the power and influence of our industry, as well as our creativity,” said Caroline Rush, chief executive of the British Fashion Council. “We hope that you’ll listen as we talk to you about visas, about talent, about tariffs, about frictionless borders and around IP (intellectual property).”
Gareth Pugh’s show featured a sample loop of Trump commanding “Build that wall” as he showed anarchistic silhouettes that referenced police riot gear, combat boots and garbage bags, while Simone Rocha’s gloriously feminine show was an anti-ageist riposte against the usual youthful castings, featuring septuagenarian models in its new-season velvets, embroidered dresses and longline trenches.
As London Fashion Week continues this week, it seems that politics in fashion isn’t going away anywhere soon.Read more at:evening dresses