Many times, I treat fashion as a way to escape, a way for me to set aside what’s plaguing my mind (politics currently, homework, drama, everything) and dress as if for a fantasy. At Sketch restaurant (my absolute favorite place, ) I find my ultimate fantasy. The bathroom is composed of a beautiful rainbow tiled ceiling arching over an indoor forest and egg bathroom stalls, each playing a recording of frogs croaking from within. Sketch is the home of the most expansive David Shrigley collection. The artist decked the walls in curious and humorous drawings as a backdrop for the fantastical confections that parade from behind kitchen doors. The wait staff almost look as if they are wearing what was just on the runway and the entrance is filled with a myriad of new and cool contemporary art. Sketch provides the ultimate escape: a home for the creative, fantastical, and new.
However, let’s return from this escape and turn to politics. Any escape only lasts for so long, and I must say, I am amazed at how fashion, what I too often associated as a way to escape, is a medium that is challenging, questioning, and entering into dialogue with politics.
Although often people don’t realize that fashion is always political, since the election, it is impossible to avoid. Glittering sequined jumpsuits, a coveted embellished tee, and an array of bold accessories shown on the runway once again confirm that fashion is very political. The usual political questions to plague the fashion community concern body type, pricing, and photoshop for imposing impossible standards of beauty. However, although much of the runway is still marked by the Kendall Jenners and Gigi Hadids, all tall, thin, and gorgeous, the change in the scope of how the fashion community is defining beauty is remarkable. Models of all sizes have been walking down the runway over the past month in New York, London, Milan, and Paris. However, perhaps even more sensational is what the models are wearing. The top fashion houses and small and cool upcoming labels are all designing for the strong, independent, beautifully vocal woman.
Fashion has the ability to make someone noticed, empowered, and to give them a voice. Since President Trump’s election and the ensuing Women’s March, the fashion community is taking a leap from the power suits, statement shoes, and bold makeup that once, however subtly, constituted the strong woman, and now is becoming more earnest in its search for how to empower and liberate women through fashion. T-shirts by Dior read “We Should All Be Feminists” and designer Prabal Gurung sent out an entire group of models in t-shirts all with slogans of empowerment, ending with the designer himself walking out and bowing in a “I am a feminist” tee. On the runway at the Public School show, models walked in red baseball caps that said, “Make America New York” and similar small nods to the same current can be seen throughout collections, if not in the standout stance that others are taking.
Perhaps the most beautiful, breathtaking, and powerful political message was by Ashish at New York Fashion Week. The runway was composed of a giant broken heart with a yellow brick road catwalk running down the center. The collection consisted of models in Mexican wrestling makeup and entirely sequined ensembles, (a trademark look for Ashish) ranging from a soft green t-shirt with a darling kitten printed on the front accompanied by the slogan “Pussy Grabs Back,” a USA bomber jacket streaked in red and blue, checked shorts (once again sequined) on a male model reading “Planned Parenthood,” sequined Cubs jerseys, among other MLB teams with an array of slogans all to the same note to “never give up,” to totally head to town sequined rainbow gowns inspiring gay pride, marked the most critical and yet purposeful message of how America might stay great in the chaos that the tornado brought down since the election, OZ representing Washington. The runway represents Dorothy and friends and their quest to improve and to return back home in a glittery message of resistance and solidarity.
Although feminism might be the biggest movement highlighted at fashion week, over the past couple of years, runways, ad-campaigns, magazines, among other forms of media have been working to bring transgender, gay, racially diverse, and androgynous models to the spotlight. The election also brought about some of the top investigative political journalism, and it’s coming from Teen Vogue’s Lauren Duca. The fashion community is in the midst of rewriting what’s beautiful.
This past election marked the first time Vogue took a stance and backed a candidate, posting support for Hillary Clinton and releasing articles, along with the March issue with the headings “Women Rule! Fashion’s Fearless Females, the Beauty Revolution.” Vogue also just put out a video of models draped in American flag dresses and clothing by designers who are immigrants. What and who the models are wearing flashes on the bottom of the screen on a “Breaking News” banner. Following the same thread, models, designers, writers, editors, and bloggers collaborated on an “I am an immigrant” campaign. The fashion industry after all is one of the most international, embracing a global community inspiring creativity and diversity, and now, more than ever, empowering women to be vocal, and it’s beautiful.
My Look: Topshop Unique dress, Gucci necklace, Ikram bracelet, Topshop shoes, and Calvin Klein tights