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By now, you’ve probably heard about Hulu’s adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale, or at the very least, you’ve seen the story’s most iconic image: a young woman clad in a blood-red dress and a white bonnet. Puritanical enough to turn heads, the show’s minimalist fashions, designed by Ane Crabtree, pack a punch with their saturated hues; but what’s most striking is the clothing’s inherently oppressive, gender-dividing nature. To make the dystopian universe of Gilead resonate with audiences in new ways, Hulu has launched several unexpected marketing initiatives. The latest: tapping New York fashion and art collective Vaquera to create 21 looks inspired by The Handmaid’s Tale’s sartorial statements.
On June 8, Patric DiCaprio, Bryn Taubensee, David Moses, and Claire Sully — the four young designers behind Vaquera — debuted their collection in an experiential show at New York’s Angel Orensanz Center, a former Gothic Revival synagogue, where Ryan McNamara, India Salvor Menuez, Madeline Poole and Chloe Wise were in attendance. Models of all ages, races, shapes and sizes were unified by their intense gaze, heavy-footed gait, and red and white color scheme.
“With each collection or collaboration that we do, we are discussing something rather dark, but we want people to leave on a hopeful note,” Taubensee told THR on tackling The Handmaid’s Tale‘s challenging themes and means of using clothing to construct identity. In their Fall 2017 collection, the highly conceptual and daring collective grappled with issues of politics and the American dream, most notably embodied in a Tiffany & Co.-inspired blue pouch dress. “So we started out with a more literal version of the handmaid, which evolves into all these different looks,” said Taubensee. “By the end, we hope that she feels liberated, and people feel inspired.”
Each look also played with the notion of sexuality, many conjuring the fetishistic. Kiss-stained necks grew into full-fledged kisses, concealed under enlarged bonnets, or wings, of course. Memorable numbers include a white dress dripping with red bras, a suffragette whose apron read “VOTES FOR WOMEN,” and of course, the M’aidez suit, which Vaquera previewed on their Instagram.
Crabtree herself also made a runway cameo in an inmate suit. Every model had a moment in the spotlight – a man carrying a bag of oranges (the commander’s favorite) peeled them before the audience, another stripped carnations and peonies of their petals, and in one of the final looks, a model in a form-fitting, face-covering, transparent red dress struck poses while flirtatiously twirling the strings of her bonnet as if her own hair.
“The handmaid is forced to dress and act a certain way, so we dressed people as handmaids but then allowed them to break that mold,” DiCaprio explained about the capsule collection, which will not be for sale. “Within the system, you can still be yourself.”
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