Last year it was statement fur coats. The year before that it was capes and culottes. This year, one of the biggest trends strutting down the runway at New York Fashion week is resistance, and no—it’s not just in the form of a bunch of safety pins. In light of the election of Donald Trump, it seems that parts of the fashion world have really incorporated themes of protest, feminism, and unity into their work. It’s written across the chests of models. It’s the soundtrack used at shows. It’s the message many designers are trying to get across.
Just yesterday, designer Mara Hoffman invited the co-chairs of the Women's March—Linda Sarsour, Tamika Mallory, Bob Bland, and Carmen Perez—to deliver a message on the runway at the beginning of the show.
Tracy Reese had four female poets read their work as guests wandered through essentially a gallery of her designs. Naeem Khan also went the poetry route, playing a recording of Maya Angelou reading her poem "Human Family" toward the end of his show before going on to criticize Trump’s immigration ban backstage after the show was over.
Another thing that’s popping up on runways all over the place are statement tees and other articles of clothing with words written on them. Hillary Clinton supporter Prabal Gurung sent his models down the runway wearing shirts emblazoned with various feminist and activist statements like “The future is female,” and even the very recent “Nevertheless, she persisted,” as a cover of John Lennon’s “Imagine” played. Cinq à Sept handed out tees that said “I love everyone” on them and models at Mexican-born designer Raul Solis’ show wore underwear with lines like “Fuck Your Wall” and “No Ban No Wall” handwritten on the back.
Public School sent models down the runway with #MAGA-esque hats and crop tops that read “Make America New York.” A model in Christian Siriano’s show wore a shirt that read “People Are People”—but the rest of Siriano’s show truly embraced the themes of unity, diversity, and inclusiveness, featuring plus-sized models and models of color.
The Council of Fashion Designers of America is distributing pink pins (they’re magnetic so as to not poke holes in all the fancy clothing) that read “Fashion stands with Planned Parenthood,” with various designers and even Anna Wintour herself have been seemn wearing the pin proudly. Jonathan Simkhai pledged to donate $5 to Planned Parenthood for every seat in the room at his show. And on Sunday, a charity show for AnaOno Intimates, which specializes in designs for women affected by the disease, featured breast cancer survivors as models, some of whom bared their mastectomy scars on the runway.
It can be difficult to distill what activism and inclusivity looks like in the fashion world, which is pretty exclusive as far as race, body type, and class go. What use is a designer featuring poets and activist themes if their work doesn’t come in sizes larger than a 12 or is unaffordable for the more vulnerable people in our society? Putting graphic tees with such quotes runs the risk of rendering activism into a fashion trend, which could potentially undermine the important work people are doing.
Still, there is certainly some comfort knowing that the most privileged among us are just as pissed about our president as we are—and not afraid to put it on the runway.