The last year has brought a new meaning to the phrase “fashion statement.” Designers have always embraced their platform as a way to make a statement about topics from environmental change to feminism to a call to attention of natural disasters. This year though has brought a whole host of new issues to the world. As a result, recent fashion shows have been charged with impassioned pleas and slogans.
In the last couple weeks alone, stands have been taken immediately following President Trump’s executive order to temporarily ban travel from seven Muslim-majority countries along with not allowing refugees to enter the country for 120 days. Leyla Piedayesh of brand Lala Berlin, showed clothing during Copenhagen Fashion Week emblazoned with words like “think,” “revolution,” and “change.” Many could have connected the clothing to the recent political shift without being directly told, but, in case the observer wasn’t sure, Piedayesh walked out at the end of the show with a sign that said “I’m an immigrant” held proudly above her head.
Back in September, Asish Gupta, in response to Brexit, wore a shirt simply with the word “immigrant” written on it during London Fashion Week. Designer Robert Geller walked out at the end of his show during New York Fashion Week a couple weeks ago in a similar shirt. The brand Opening Ceremony showed garments with words like “protest,” “act,” “change,” and “defy” written on them along with prints inspired by a book of fairy tales that children at Ellis Island were given according to Vogue.com. The clothing was shown through a ballet entitled The Times Are Racing, a piece celebrating immigrants that was in the works before Election Day but became more significant to those working on it as time progressed.
Christian Siriano, along with including women of all sizes in his shows to fight for inclusion, also sent a shirt with the phrase “people are people” written on it down the runway. Siriano told Hollywood Reporter that the shirt was not about politics but “about human rights…It’s about supporting everyone.” 100 percent of the proceeds will go to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) which, according to businessoffashion.com, recently “filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of two Iraqis being held at John F. Kennedy International Airport.”
Designers are also raising their voices for feminism. Back in September at Maria Grazia Chiuri’s first show as Dior’s new Creative Director (and as its first woman Creative Director ever), she used her new platform to show T-shirts that said “We should all be feminists.” As New York Fashion Week began this February, Prabal Gurung sent down models with T-shirts that read “Revolution has no borders,” “I am an immigrant,” and “Nevertheless, she persisted.” The designer wore a “This is what a feminist looks like,” shirt himself. Designers Rchel Antonoff and Emelie Janrell prominently featured uteruses as print on their clothing this season. Janrell explained it as embracing the female body, according to Vogue.com.
Designers are artists who are creating pieces with a story. In times like these where many feel like they’re surrounded by instability, they search for a voice. Fashion is an industry rarely recognized for its frequent interaction with politics. This last election season, Vogue openly supported a candidate for the first time in its history. Within just the first week of New York Fashion Week multiple designers have already released shirts in support of various causes. It’s not often that there are so many T-shirts, but some things just can’t be left up to interpretation, and the fashion industry isn’t scared to say it in bold.