Fashion Gets Political: On and Off the Runway Statements

5:52 AM 2/12/2017

by Stephanie Chan, Sam Reed, and Booth Moore

The fashion industry is taking a political stance this season.

Tommy Hilfiger White Bandanas - Getty - H 2017
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Fashion designers and attendees are making their voices heard with statement-making soundtracks and collection inspirations, slogan T-shirts and personal accessories.

Here, a running list of political statements being made during NYFW, which runs until Feb. 16.

  • Prabal Gurung's Feminist Tees

    Prabal Gurung sent models Bella Hadid, Candice Huffine and Marquita Pring and more down the runway in tees bearing feminist phrases such as "The Future is Female," "Voices for Choices" and "We Will Not Be Silenced." (Gurung noted that the shirts will be on sale along with the collection.)

    "I wanted to capture what I felt there," Gurung told THR. "I read about what Gloria Steinem was doing in the '70s and the movement, but I never thought I’d live to see that kind of thing. But when I went there, and I saw all the women there, I thought, 'Oh my God.' They set an example for the rest of us that by peaceful resistance, we can make some changes. It took women to do that. So I wanted to capture that."

    He added: "So to me feminism is not just a trending topic. It’s the only way I’ve known, even before I knew what [feminism] was."

  • Women's March Organizers Participate in Mara Hoffman's Show

    The national co-chairs of the Women's March on Washington — Brooklyn-based designer Bob Bland (with her baby in tow), social justice activist Tamika Mallory, civil rights advocate Carmen Perez, and Brooklyn-born Palestinian-American-Muslim racial justice and civil rights activist Linda Sarsour — kicked off Mara Hoffman's presentation-meets-performance with opening remarks.

    "Unity, love and strength, with a message that women's rights are human rights. We stand together in solidarity, recognizing that our vibrant and diverse community are the strength of our country. Hear our voice," said Perez, before each woman took turns sharing an empowering message.

    Said Perez of designer Hoffman: "She's trying to ensure that people understand the intersectionality between activism and fashion. [...] It's grounded in supporting women."

  • Female Empowerment Poetry at Tracy Reese

    At Tracy Reese's fall 2017 presentation, four poets (Jenny Zhang, Aja Monet, Leslie Reese and Dorothea Lasky) clad in black stood amongst the models reading their own poetry. The message of the poetry was all about female empowerment — a strong theme throughout Reese's show. 

    The designer herself was decked out in a Planned Parenthood pink button (which she also handed out to showgoers), and a shirt with a quote from Angela Davis: "I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change, I am changing the things I cannot accept."  


    A video posted by Tracy Reese (@tracy_reese) on


    A photo posted by Tracy Reese (@tracy_reese) on

  • "We Need Leaders" and "Make America New York" at Public School

    At Public School's fall show on Sunday morning, designers Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne's streetwear collection included jackets that read "We Need Leaders" on the back. There were also red hats and tees with the phrase "Make America New York" — a different take on Donald Trump's "Make American Great Again" campaign slogan.

  • Jonathan Simkhai's "Feminist AF" Tees

    Designer Jonathan Simkhai gifted attendees "Feminist AF" tees at his show on Saturday afternoon, and several members of his team were spotted rocking the shirts backstage. The designer himself showed off a black version while taking the final bow.

    The luxe fall collection featured bedazzled denim, red carpet-ready gowns, military-inspired coats and fur wraps. 

  • Christian Siriano's "People are People" Tee

    "We were trying to figure out what politically we wanted to say, because I didn’t really want to be political," designer Christian Siriano told The Hollywood Reporter backstage after his fall 2017 presentation. "['People are People'] is just about human rights," he added. "It’s not about politics, it’s about supporting everyone. That’s what I thought was important."

    The designer, known for his inclusivity on the runway, once again featured models of all sizes and ages on the runway. "[Diversity] is great to have on the runway," he said. "All the [plus-size] girls that we had today — and we had a few more [than last season] — they just feel so great to be included, which is so sad that they have to be excited to be included. Meanwhile some of them have the best walk! It’s fabulous!"

  • Calvin Klein's Melancholy Americana-Themed Show

    Belgian designer Raf Simons didn't let his nationality stop him from making a comment on the current political climate in America.

    At his debut show for Calvin Klein Collection, the music (David Bowie's "This Is Not America"), the art installation (a piece featuring American flags and swatches of denim by Sterling Ruby) and, of course, the clothes (remixed band uniforms and sharp power broker tailoring) made a statement about America and fashion's role within it.

  • "Celebrity" President Inspires Jeremy Scott's Use of Iconography

    At first glance, there wasn't anying outwardly political about Jeremy Scott's fall 2017 collection, which included images of Jesus, Michael Jackson (as Goofy), "As Seen On TV" logos and a white cape which would make an Elvis impersonator swoon. 

    However, Scott revealed to that the imagery was actually a commentary on the obsession with celebrity in the era of a "celebrity president."

    Staff at Scott's show were also spotted backstage wearing t-shirts which listed the phone numbers of U.S. senators — and if that's not a call to action, we don't know what is.


    A photo posted by Fern Mallis Official (@fernmallis) on

  • Rachel Comey's Women's March-Inspired Collection

    At her first Los Angeles fashion show (which was presented in lieu of a presentation at New York Fashion Week), designer Rachel Comey explains that the military-inspired camo print jackets and berets, as well as breast-exposing harnesses, were inspired by the femininity witnessed by the designer at the Women's March in Washington.

    The designer told The Hollywood Reporter that her participation at the march on Jan. 21 was her first experience as an activist. She also crafted 60 jackets with the slogan "Si Vales, Valeo," ("If you are strong, I am strong") which were worn by marchers. After a positive response and high-demand, Comey decided to add the coat to her collection and donate 10 percent of the profits to charity.

    As a parting gift, guests were also handed "Fashion Stands with Planned Parenthood" pins. 

  • #TiedTogether Bandanas Hit Runway for First Time at Tommy Hilfiger

    At the Tommy HIlfiger extravaganza in Venice Beach, runway models Gigi Hadid, Bella Hadid, Hailey Baldwin, Joan Smalls and more hit the runway wearing white bandanas as part of Business of Fashion's #TiedTogether initiative.

    The campaign encourages folks to wear the colorless handkerchief "to make a clear statement in support of human unity and inclusiveness amidst growing uncertainty and a dangerous narrative peddling division." The bandana campaign has extended through New York and will continue in London, Milan and Paris for each cities' respective fashion week.

    Business of Fashion founder and CEO Imran Amed is also encouraging people to share an image of themselves wearing a white bandana, writing on Instagram: "Make a positive statement in support of solidarity, human unity and inclusiveness by sharing an image of your own white bandana and tagging someone to show you are #TIEDTOGETHER as well — as family, friends, neighbours ... as humans."


    A photo posted by Imran Amed (@imranamed) on

  • Bright Pink "Fashion Stands With Planned Parenthood" Pins

    The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) partnered with Planned Parenthood to launch the Fashion Stands With Planned Parenthood campaign to raise awareness about the health care organization at New York Fashion Week, which kicked off Thursday.

    Among those spotted wearing the pin, so far: CFDA chief executive Steven Kolb, Anna Wintour, Diane von Furstenburg and Milly designer Michelle Smith. The pins were also given to guests sitting in the front row of Brock's show.

    "Planned Parenthood is often the only option for this type of care in underserved communities," said designer Tracy Reese, who is one of the CFDA's board members and helped lead the initiative. "By creating a visually engaging and fashionable pin, we hope to create an organic social media movement promoting awareness and education."


    #istandwithpp At the Calvin Klein show.... supporting my fellow Belgian Raf Simmons !

    A photo posted by Diane von Furstenberg's diary (@therealdvf) on