So far this New York Fashion Week season, fashion designers have not been shy about using the runway as a political platform. And while fashion week goers have been largely supportive, not everyone is so keen on the demonstrations.
After several New York Fashion Week: Men’s designers used their runway shows to make statements — Opening Ceremony put on a protest-themed ballet show, and Robert James filled his runway with protest signs — multiple women’s brands have followed suit. This week, designers like Christian Siriano and Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne of Public School dressed models in shirts with slogans like “Feminist AF” and “Make America New York,” and Mara Hoffman invited the founders of the Women’s March on Washington to share opening remarks at her show.
The Council of Fashion Designers of America also decided to use fashion week as a catalyst to support organizations that have come under fire during President Donald Trump’s administration, including Planned Parenthood. The CFDA encouraged designers and models to wear “Fashion Stands with Planned Parenthood” pins, which inspired designers like Joseph Altuzarra to auction off show tickets to raise money for the organization.
On Tuesday, we talked with attendees and people working behind the scenes at the shows at Skylight Clarkson Square to hear their thoughts about fashion’s role in politics. While some said fashion serves as a stage to shed light on cultural issues, others felt there needs to be more separation between the two entities.
Photo technician at The Bosco
How do you feel about the fashion industry taking politics to the runway?
Fashion is political. The people pushing the boundaries of fashion have often been people who are in marginalized communities, or they’re on the fringes of society and are not often appreciated or respected by the mainstream culture. Fashion and politics absolutely go hand-in-hand, and now is a crucial moment to be outspoken and to resist.
Some people have expressed discomfort with political messaging at fashion week. Why do you think that is?
If you’re uncomfortable, you really have to examine why you’re uncomfortable. A lot of people who design these clothes, or wear these clothes on the runway, don’t really have the luxury of ever having a safe space, by virtue of the fact that they’re not necessarily white or men, or part of the privileged classes in society. It’s a little difficult to want to come in here and treat this like it’s strictly an entertainment venue — that’s not really what it’s about.
Thoughts on the CFDA’s Planned Parenthood effort?
My girlfriend works for the national office for Planned Parenthood, so I’m definitely supportive.
Sara Hart Lindland
Fashion editor at Style de Rue (left)
How do you feel about fashion getting political.
I think it’s amazing. It’s about time, and it’s perfect right now for everything that’s happening. I think it’s time we take back control and show that everybody can make a difference.
What designers made a strong political statement this season, in your opinion?
Dior was one of the first to get the message out there so powerfully, by mixing high-end products with simple statement T-shirts. It’s something everybody can be inspired by. Yesterday, we went to Mara Hoffman’s show, and she started with a powerful opening with four lovely, beautiful women talking about everything that’s going on — and they were all racially different. It was a really powerful statement.
Male beauty influencer
Do you think there’s a place for politics in fashion?
Each platform, whether you’re on digital media or in fashion, is a form of speech and self expression. If the designer wants to express a political side, that’s up to them. I don’t mind it.
Are there any designers you feel have had a particularly resonating message?
I keep mentioning Christian Siriano’s show, because he was totally into diversity — and his last look was a T-shirt that said “People are people.” Regardless of what he was referring to, people are people, and I just love that statement. He had beautiful jumpsuits, and different ages and races, and different models. My words of the year, personally, are inclusivity and self-awareness.
Would you wear the CFDA’s “Fashion stands with Planned Parenthood” pin?
I don’t know. If it goes with the outfit, then yes — but I don’t know if it will go with my outfit.
Runway model and fashion coach
Should politics have a place in fashion?
I used to work for the government, and I’m going to be honest with you: There are politics in everything, even though it shouldn’t always be that way. Fashion is fashion. Everybody’s open to their opinion, but I really don’t like mixing the two. Stick to politics, or stick to fashion.
Why do you think the two should be so separated?
Maybe it’s because of what I did for the government — I worked for them for over four years in the Obama administration, under Governor Cuomo’s cabinet and as a legislative officer to the Syracuse government — and how it reaches out to every other aspect of life. I got away from it, as far as I could, and now I’m in the fashion industry, and it followed me here.
Creative director at E. Gluck Corporation
Politics and fashion? Go.
I’m not so into [mixing politics and fashion], because I feel like you want to get away from the heavy stuff and keep it light and fun. So for me, I prefer not mixing them. Not to say I’m pro-Trump or anything, but we have places and times for [protesting], and when we’re here to be inspired creatively, that’s not when I want to be bombarded with messages.
Thoughts on the CFDA’s Planned Parenthood pins?
I’m OK with it. I like it. If it’s your quiet little announcement to the world, that’s fine. That works for me. It’s not throwing it in my face, and making everybody have to agree with it.