NYFW Doubles Down On Fashtivism and A Message Of Inclusivity At Prabal Gurung, J.Crew, And More

'Our voice is the only thing that will protect us'

If you're wondering where the New York fashion industry stands on Donald Trump, the #MuslimBan or women's reproductive rights, look no further than the pack attending its shows.

At Jeremy Scott, ushers dressed in t-shirts emblazoned with the slogan 'Our voice is the only thing that will protect us' and the phone number of every U.S. senator on the back escorted me to my seat.

Across from me, sat the street-style famous editor, Giovanna Battaglia, wearing a t-shirt that read, 'Your body is a battleground,' accessorised with big gold hoops, a bomber jacket, leggings and sporty heels.

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW
ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

Between us, all walks of life squeezed by looking for their seats, from blonde blogger types to cross-dressers to a club kid wearing a t-shirt, a leather thong and no pants.

Leigh Lezark and Greg Krelenstein with Sita Abellan, plus models backstage

Fashion has always been a safe haven for the creatives, the misfits, the rebels and the wonderfully dressed weirdos — and nowhere else is this more true than in New York and London. So it's not surprising to see that last season's slogan tee has morphed into this season's protest banner.

It's hard to walk two feet without seeing a political statement broadcast across someone's chest. But fashion, politics and activism don't always mix well. It can read cringe when it's being used to court street style photographers (there was a lot of that happening yesterday). But when done right, it can spread a message far and wide (there's a lot of that happening too.)

When Sophie Theallet, a go-to designer for Michelle Obama, wrote her open letter refusing to dress Melania Trump in a stand against the presidential campaign's rhetoric of exclusion, she received death threats on social media. Some stores canceled their orders for her clothes. But Theallet's statement emboldened other designers to come forward with their own views, and in a way helped open the floodgates to what we're seeing this week.

Sophie Theallet ss17

'This can't be a trend or a fashion thing, though,' Theallet said in her showroom as she showed me her dresses, loaded with feminism and battle references, and political tees. 'This is a humanity thing.'

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

Prabal Gurung's show was filled with fluid, swingy dresses (trending this week) and chunky knits. But it was his finale that stole the show: his entire lineup of models dressed in t-shirts that broadcast things like, 'Stay Woke,' 'The Future Is Female,' And 'I Am An Immigrant.' He doubled down on the messaging through his casting, which featured a range of body types.

At J.Crew, the acts of protest weren't so grand or clamorous, but the message of inclusivity still spoke volumes.

For a second season, it cast 'friends of the brand' or as the fashion world likes to call it, 'real people,' to wear the collection.

J. Crew AW17

This time around, its cast, which ranged in age from nine to 67-years-old and spanned all ethnicities, included the comedian Sandra Bernhard, Refinery29 editor in chief Christene Barberich and buyer/street style star Taylor Tomasi Hill. It screamed, 'this is fashion.' It also screamed, 'this is New York' (if a highly attractive version of it.)

Sandra Bernhard joins models at the J. Crew presentation for AW17
ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

J.Crew and Prabal, weren't the only ones celebrating racial, age and body diversity. Tracy Reese and Tome both did so elegantly.

Models at Tracy Reese AW17

To be fair, all of the brands mentioned above have a history of celebrating diversity, but it's never been more fashionable to recognise the need for greater representation and inclusive statement-making than right now, as liberal New York rallies against a new common enemy. That enemy being a world of division, animosity and hierarchies of colour, shape and race.

'This can't be a trend or a fashion thing. This is a humanity thing.'

It is at this point, though, that we need to insure the longevity of the movement. Trends and social media are fleeting, but the battle to protect Planned Parenthood or keep America's borders open, will take months, years probably, of persistent campaigning. Initiatives like the CFDA's campaign, Fashion Stands With Planned Parenthood, which encouraged designers to distribute pins and cards explaining what the public can do to protect the women's reproductive health organisation from federal defunding are a good start. Altuzarra, meanwhile, auctioned two runway tickets to his show in support of PP.

Lets hope the fashion industry is prepared for the long haul.

Slogans in the street are imperative, but we mustn't out our jumpers back on next month or next season
More from ELLE UK: