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New York Fall/Winter 2017 RTW Collections

Fashion Takes A Stand
- Marilyn Kirschner

Show attendees wearing Prabal Gurung slogans

All Photos: Vogue.com

It was a fashion week like no other. Then again, this is a social and politically charged time like no other. So, it’s hardly surprising that many show goers used this as an opportunity to display their strong feelings with slogan t shirts. Or that fashion designers would use their runways as a platform to speak out about diversity, inclusivity, take a stand against social injustice, stand up for women of all races, genders, body types, ages, and say no to body shaming.

Quite frankly, it felt like one big continuation of the Women’s March on Washington held last month, but with better clothes (well, sometimes; unfortunately, the political statements at times upstaged the fashion). The designers’ political activism informed everything: the clothing, the way in which the collections were presented, and the choice of models.

Gypsy Sport’s Rio Uribe, 2, compassionately tackled the issue of homelessness this season, and said he found inspiration from the homeless (not their style necessarily, but their will to live). He addressed the audience before the show began saying “There is a huge cloud of hate floating in the world right now, led by men who are afraid of what we can do when we come together and unite,” he said. “Let us unite to fight for a new; decent world….There is plenty of room for all of us here.” Among other things, Uribe was inspired by immigrants in Europe and specifically those displaced persons who live outdoors. Most of his models were recruited from some of the political rallies he himself has joined in the last few months, including the Women’s March in Los Angeles and protests against the Muslim ban in New York and enlisted the talents of drummers (the ones who can be found playing in the city’s subway), to provide the musical beat.

The music for the Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne’s streetwise Public School 3, show, composed by Twin Shadow’s George Lewis, Jr., was a variation on the Woody Guthrie standard “This Land Is Your Land.” Some of the models sported caps and one top emblazoned with the words, “Make America New York,” and a number of pieces were printed with the words, “We need leaders.” Mara Hoffman’s show opened with a moving speech by Tamika D. Mallory, Linda Sarsour, Bob Bland, and Carmen Perez—the co-chairs of the Women’s March on Washington. “We work peacefully while recognizing that there is no true peace until there is justice and equity for all. Hear our voice,” Mallory said.

Rag & Bone’s CEO Marcus Wainwright 4, admitted that after the election, he “woke up and for whatever reason felt completely disinterested in runways shows. It meant absolutely nothing, suddenly”. “We’ve got people from all walks of life, all with their very strong sense of personal style. That’s really what fashion means to me right now.” Thus, to mark the company’s 15th anniversary, highlight the integrity of the label’s highly sought after designs, and celebrate individuality, he substituted its usual formal runway show with an exhibition of photographs which were unveiled at a party. The portrait sitters, an eclectic group of 74, were longtime friends and supporters of the brand (Mikhail Baryshnikov, Carmelo Anthony, Keri Russell, Amber Valletta among them). They all wore pieces from the Rag & Bone 2017 collection which they picked themselves.

Anniesa Hasibuan and Hakan Akkaya (both Muslim designers) incorporated traditional Muslim headwear in their collections. Anniesa Hasibuan,5, the first designer to show all Hijabi models on the runway last season, used a lineup of models who were immigrants, green card holders, and 1st/2nd generation Americans. The show was an opportunity to show that Islam is beautiful, she said. “Not all immigrants are bad and we’ve proved that they are beautiful and a great contribution to the United States”. Hakan Akkaya incorporated his take on a burka; one male and one female to push gender norms and further his theme of freedom in reference to religion, sexuality, and race.

At Jeremy Scott, 6, front-of-house workers were clad in shirts designed by Scott (they were printed with the numbers of congressmen on the back), and his show, one of his best in seasons, was intended to serve as a warning about the dangers of idol/celebrity worship (the image of Jesus Christ was depicted in many of the pieces).

For the finale of his show, Prabal Gurung 7, sent his models out in T-shirts stamped with political slogans: “Revolution has no borders,” “I am an immigrant,” “Nevertheless, she persisted.” At the show’s end, Prabal came out wearing a tee of his own: “This is what a feminist looks like,” it read. He also used two plus sized models Candice Huffine and Marquite Pring who mixed in with the usual group of size 0’s.

At Michael Kors 8, where the theme was “sensual strength”, Ashley Graham made history by becoming the first model beyond a size 12 to walk a Michael Kors runway. Tome’s Ryan Lobo and Ramon Martin,9, who said they were inspired by this year’s Women’s March on Washington, used three plus sized models plus one older model (with grey hair) on their runway.

Marc Jacobs,10, who just last season had been criticized for cultural misappropriation after showing faux dreadlocks on his runway (but did not use one model of color), made amends this time around. The hip hop culture of New York (the late 70’s through the 90’s), and more specifically, the HBO Documentary “Hip-Hop Evolution” inspired the beauty looks. No two looked the same as Marc wanted to celebrate each of the 37 models’ individuality.

We’ve certainly come a long way from yesteryear when there was one acceptable standard of beauty. The runways have become far more accepting, cross cultural, diverse, inclusive, democratic, as exemplified this season; not only the choice of models, but in the hair and makeup. Beauty is truly in the eyes of the beholder and there are many ways to define it.11, This also applies to footwear. Who said Uggs are ugly? Not Alexander Wang, who showed versions on his runway; his are punctuated with edgy silver balls (“Make Uggs Beautiful Again!”?). 12,

That being said, there are some that still don’t get it. One socialite (who shall remain nameless but was mentioned in Page Six last week) talked about the problem of getting around New York Fashion Week in the inclement weather. While she admitted that she was uncomfortable in her 5 inch stilettos, she said she could not stomach the idea of forgoing fashion for comfort by wearing anything as ugly as Birkenstocks (for fear that her friends would be shocked). She said they were the ugliest, and did not understand why designers continue to show them. Well apparently, Coach’s Stuart Vevers 13, doesn’t agree as he accessorized many of his outfits with iterations of Birkenstocks along with Moon Boots (who many see as unflattering and rather ugly), on his runway.

Certainly, one upside to the current highly charged mood, is a heightened awareness of the importance of being socially/politically active, a renewed appreciation for our freedoms, and a rekindled patriotism, which found its way onto the runways where the spotlight just happened to be on Great American Sportswear , which has never looked better. What could be more real, more authentic, and more idiosyncratically American than western wear? 14,
It was a thread that wove its way throughout many collections (as seen in the sturdy shearlings, buffalo plaids and checks, patchwork, quilting, denim, and the resurgence in tans and browns) but leave it to two foreign born transplanted New Yorkers to do Americana better than anyone else: Belgian born Raf Simons in his strong debut collection for Calvin Klein, and British born Stuart Vevers 15,h ead of design at Coach since 2014. Even Anna Wintour is 16, on board, personally endorsing the look with the ensemble she wore when attending Marc Jacobs’ show on Thursday afternoon.

And while the political statements might have indeed upstaged the fashion at times, that doesn’t mean there were not some stellar collections and great clothes shown. It just so happens that the best pieces did not fit into any specific category, and would be perfect if you're not one of the “Cool” girls, or an “It girl”; you’re over a “certain age” and are seeking designs that are timeless, ageless, and not in the least bit trendy. The good news is that there were certainly enough of those presented last week (“Make America Chic Again!”), most notably from Protagonist, The Row, Gabriela Hearst, Rosetta Getty. 17,R>
And thankfully, there were collections, Delpozo , 18,Rosie Assoulin, Libertine, Proenza Schouler, that did not look like anything else (and never do); they stand out because of their fabulous originality and marvelous execution. Thom Browne is simply in a class of his own and in a season which emphasized tailoring and menswear, nobody did it more better or more inventively. 19,
Last but not least is outerwear. While always important (especially in a fall winter season), coats (camel hair, patchwork, collaged, fur and fur trimmed, shearling, down filled, floor length, hip length, or knee length, tautly belted or cocoon shaped) were truly the stars this season. The best ones were all sturdy, gusty, all encompassing, and would qualify as veritable protective armor to shield one from a scary often dangerous world. Given current events, I can’t think of anything more appealing. 20.

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