With the November Presidential election rapidly approaching, it is no wonder that the Spring/Summer ‘17 shows at New York Fashion Week were brimming with political messages this past week. Most notably were the feminist inspirations at Prabal Gurung, Pyer Moss’ Wall Street critique, and Opening Ceremony’s faux pageant that included all sorts of political discussion.
Now everybody is asking: can politics and fashion truly mix? The answer is, and has always been, yes. Even if collections haven’t had the blatant nods to social issues in the past, politics, economics, and society have always influenced what we wear. But now the shift from being influenced to influencing has occurred.
Prabal Gurung did not show us what we should wear as feminists, he brought us a collection embroidered with quotes from famous feminists whose words are meant to inspire and encourage. On his show notes, Gurung wrote:
“To my mother, who always wanted to change the idea that the higher you go, the fewer women there are” -Prabal Gurung
The show combined the soft with the structured, flowing dresses with tailored suits, and even had a tee embroidered with the Susan B. Anthony quote, “They threw things at me then but they were not roses.” Every piece was inspired by “modern” feminists, and quotes from different time periods and transitioning form furthered this concept. There was feminine charm, there was strength. It was empowering while looking at the roots of what it means to be a woman.
Thought the least abrasive collection, Gurung certainly still got his point across. More blatant visuals and harsher language was used by the likes of Pyer Moss, whose collection, titled “Bernie vs Bernie”, focused on capitalism and the current economic struggles facing the country.
Originally titled “Money Problems,” this collection examines the political beliefs and outcomes of both Bernie Madoff and Bernie Sanders. The Wall Street vibe is clear in the pinstripe suiting and trousers. However these pieces were then superimposed with jackets, tees, and sweats that said phrases such as “Greed”, “Please Speak Only to My Attorney,” and “Come Shake the Money Tree.”
By combining influences of the man who took the fall for the market crash of 2008, and the self described socialist and previous presidential hopeful, the brand gave us a clear message of conflict between interests and parties, and how still not much has changed. Corporate greed and rising loan interests still plague us far past Madoff’s incarceration and Sander’s running time. By using two men of the same name and similar age, but entirely different platforms, we are reminded that the pessimism and optimism of both Bernies will not change to problem, though it does need to be solved.
While economically driven, this collection isn’t even the top of the three, however. Opening Ceremony stole the show post Rio Olympics, with its own Olympic style flag bearers representing nations upon entrance to the show. Taking place the same night as the Miss America pageant, this pageant meets fashion show event aimed to examine multiple social issues while also displaying their new line.
Hosted by Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, the show combined models walking the stage as well as asking celebrities in the rest of the collection pre-planned questions in order to address issues such as “immigration, economic inequality, police brutality, and gender discrimination,” as noted in their program. Think of it as a less ad-libbed longer question portion of the pageants.
Rashida Jones discussed the refugee crisis, Ali Wong – the problem with the family-career mindset, Rowan Blanchard discussed feminism, while Diane Guerrero called for immigration reform. The tone was not anti-American however. Sarah McBride, trans woman and the first openly transgender individual to speak at a national convention said American means constantly changing what “We the People” means, and Whoopi Goldberg said that only America would give her the opportunities she receives.
Furthermore, due to the show’s date of September 11th, the program included a dedication to the victims of the attacks 15 years prior, in a display of respect amongst political critique.
All of these shows found humorous, compelling, and beautiful ways to send a message, individual ones, but also one collective cry: You can mix fashion and politics. And you can do it damn well.
Article by Cassandra Gagnon for The Untitled Magazine.