More than ever, shoppers — millennials, especially — want to know what the brands they support stand for. So this New York Fashion Week, designers have answered by eliminating any question about their convictions.
Late Saturday afternoon, Christian Siriano, true to form, delivered a message of “fashion for all,” sending models of a diverse array of shapes, races and sexes on a lap on around his Gotham Hall runway. All wore shoes from his Payless collection, which run for about $35.
Secured by Siriano’s go-to casting agent Hollie Schliftman, the models included a dress-clad Nico Tortorella, a TV actor who came out as gender-fluid in May and has worn multiple Christian Siriano frocks on the red carpet, as well as curve models Precious Lee and Candice Huffine. Three black models wearing coral walked side-by-side to applause.
On Friday, Carly Cushnie signaled she, too, will be standing for size-inclusivity, with her solo collection: Her debut runway show sans longtime business partner Michelle Ochs included curve models Yvonne Simone, Candice Huffine and Marquita Pring. Models chosen for fall 2018 were exclusively sample size. It was promising — though the aforementioned models’ recent Instagrams show images from the shows of just Cushnie and the usual suspects.
In addition to continuing his message of inclusivity, Siriano suggested making a statement via a model in a message tee will, for him, be a seasonal occurrence. In February, he showed a pink satin skirt paired with a black tee splashed with, “People are people.” (“I felt like we needed one, simple great statement, just to celebrate everybody,” he told Glossy.) This time, a model donned a “Vote for Cynthia” T-shirt, and Siriano wore an “I’m voting for Cynthia” tee under a blazer for the finale, both of which showed the designer’s support of New York governor candidate Cynthia Nixon. “Cynthia for NY” flyers were placed in attendees’ seats, and Nixon was spotted sitting front row.
But work remains to be done. “The same four or five designers are the ones using curve models, and that’s where it’s frustrating,” IMG Models director Mina White told Glossy last week, calling out Siriano and Prabal Gurung as those consistently going there. Chromat could be added to that list. “We are sending [curve models] out to see just about everybody, but we aren’t seeing that evolve into actual bookings.”
It’s unclear whether being vocal about his beliefs has translated to sales for Christiano; he’s been pretty been mum about the success of his brand, though has been labeling it as profitable for years, and in 2016, he told Bloomberg he expected to see an annual revenue of $6 million to $8 million.
Also making a bold statement was Pyer Moss designer Kerby Jean-Raymond, who celebrated black culture with an all-black model cast and accompanying gospel choir at his spring 2019 show, held Saturday night in Weeksville, one of the country’s first free black communities.. Pieces featured artwork of black families, including a father and son barbecuing, and a dad holding a baby. Last season, his show, tited “American Also,” played out to the tune of Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright,” long linked to the Black Lives Matter movement.
The driving inspiration was the question of, “What does a mundane Saturday look like when we’re just left alone?” the black designer reportedly said backstage.
5 questions with… Dion Lee
What was on your brain as you were designing for this season?
It started with this idea of tough sensuality — kind of a utilitarian sensuality. We adopted the language of lingerie in some of the elements, like the fastenings — we exaggerated them and repeated them all over the body.
Why the new focus on accessories — launching shoes last season, and now handbags?
That’s something we’ve been working on for a while. For the bags, we really wanted to find a signature shape that felt like our own and like something we hadn’t seen from anyone else. It’s exciting to be playing in leather goods as a way to continue the language of the brand.
Why no men on the runway this season?
That’s something we only ever approached as capsule collections. It’s definitely something I would love to continue with, but we’re not really taking a seasonal approach to it.
You just opened your 10th store. What’s next?
At the moment, all of our stores are in Austalia, We’d love to have a store in New York or somewhere else the U.S. We’re at a good size in Australia now, so I’d definitely like to start exploring something internationally. Our stores are really about capturing the feeling of the clothes in the retail environment.
What’s inspiring you now?
“I’ll be 16 in November. Yeah, there’s supposed to be an age requirement, but the only [brand] that enforces it is Gucci.” –a model talking to her makeup artist backstage on Sunday morning
“Where the hell is this place? I don’t remember walking on a bridge last season,” –a sweaty showgoer walking over train tracks en route to the Eckhaus Latta show, unaware the brand’s spring 2019 was even deeper into Brooklyn than the last
With new campaign, Kenzo looks to give fashion films a good name
Why models wore “sample-size” T-shirts on the Chromat runway
Ralph Lauren’s American dream feels political now
More designers are going his-and-hers. This afternoon, within an hour of Tibi designer Amy Smilovic introducing menswear on her runway, Prabal Gurung announced on Instagram that his show this evening will feature his debut menswear collection. “Step into our world of inclusivity, where diversity and soul are celebrated virtues,” he said. The show will be live-streamed on his site at 7:00 p.m. ET.
Christian Siriano spring 2019 runway image by Dan Lecca