With all the political unrest happening around the world, it’s no surprise some designers weighed in on the conversation. How could they not? While some opted for a more symbolic and focused expression – think Jonathan Simkhai’s or Creatures of the Wind’s messages of female or community empowerment – others went in for bold statement graphics, not leaving much to interpretation. They say an image is worth a thousand words, but words tend to allow for very specific statements.
Prabal Gurung Fashion Show Ready to Wear Collection Fall Winter 2017 in New York
One of the most vocal designers to speak on political issues thus far this season, Prabal Gurung used the final walkthrough of his show to boldly switch from cozy sweaters, fur coats, and romantic evening wear to a lineup of white and navy tees. Covered with taglines such as “I am an Immigrant,” “Break Down Walls,” and “Nevertheless, she persisted,” the t-shirts touched on important cultural landmarks of these last few months. In choosing to close his runway show with such an unquestionable position, Gurung has been more direct than most designers have, or could. This is because his stance came from a place of authenticity, as he himself is an immigrant and understands firsthand many problems and sufferings that others may not.
Finalists for last year’s CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, design darlings, Beckett Fogg and Piotrek Panszczyk are continuing to gain traction among the New York Fashion Week circuit. Their show on Saturday was the result of market research in the months leading up, with which they concluded that shoppers want a bit of everything – so that’s what they designed. But what wasn’t to be expected – and probably didn't stem from their research – was the introduction of graphic statements. Closing out the show, Panszczyk was dressed in a t-shirt reading “J’aime Drama” ("I love drama"), which was also spotted on a model in a red color way. The bold choice of vibrant red with the text referring to the love of drama felt like a subtle statement in and of itself about the state of politics of course, but also regarding one of the possible reasons that resulted in Trump's success (think soap opera antics over reasonable facts).
Christian Siriano Fashion Show Ready to Wear Collection Fall Winter 2017 in New York
Designer duo Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne did not beat around the bush with their position this season, reimagining Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan into caps that read “Make America New York” – a fitting sentiment given that 79 percent of New Yorkers voted for Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton, who politically represented the adversary of the current president. The back of a white hoodie was emblazoned with “We Need Leaders” while a carefully adapted remix of the song “This Land Is Your Land” accompanied – in some ways, even orchestrated – the show, conjuring up a quite powerful, precise, and compelling message.
Over at Christian Siriano, the former Project Runway winner stayed fairly true to his signature design DNA, with decadent luxe fabrics and red carpet worthy silhouettes. The odd interjection towards the end, however, was quite unexpected – and very un-Siriano like. A simple black tee reading “People Are People” was styled atop a high shine pink skirt with a daring, thigh-high spilt. The uber feminine pairing of the tee felt like a direct statement to the recent issue surrounding women’s rights (link to female empowerment piece), with the designer asserting his belief that all humans are equal. Siriano has always been an advocate for diversity within his shows, but it’s motivating to see the designer step into the world of brand activism, if only via slogan statements for now. The fact that the designer ended the show with Depeche Mode’s "People are People" (echoing the line over and over) is likely to make the t-shirt one of the most talked about pieces of the show.
Alexander Wang Fashion Show Ready to Wear Collection Fall Winter 2017 in New York
After last season’s rambunctious #WangFest, the designer opted out of an after party this season with the invite clearly stating "No AfterParty." That statement continued as a theme throughout the collection plastered on sheer stockings during the show and sold the day following as a small capsule collection of mostly t-shirts. One could assume it was a statement on the world post-November, or that there is no happily ever after. Or perhaps Wang was steering away from literally throwing an after party because he’s not in the mood to celebrate? However you want to interpret it, the designer’s effort to pare down this season certainly matched the ominous mood of the current political climate.
One of the first designers to kick off fashion week, Tommy Hilfiger’s show was a continuation of last season’s hard-to-top spectacle (insert last season’s social spectacle story here). Again, the use of a spelled out ideal provided the contrast gainer. Whereas on one hand, the second collection – co-designed by Gigi Hadid – looked like a revamp of iconic pieces reimagined for a social media savvy generation, on the other, a slogan tee inscribed with “Young America” felt as topical as ever. Perhaps a statement implying America, a much younger nation than most, still has much growing to do. Conceivably, it might also signify that this country belongs to the youth – remember that Clinton secured 55 percent of the Millennial vote, and that next time around, they might be the ones who change the present course we've been set on for the next four years.