by Julia Seelig
Graphic courtesy of Katie Hong
New York Fashion Week never disappoints. In spite of widespread speculation that the Fall 2017 showings would be unimpressive––due to the swapping of major American designers from New York’s runways to Paris’s––the week was a huge success. In fact, the absence of Rodarte and Joseph Altuzarra was barely noticed in the midst of the week’s jaw-dropping moments. And trust me, there were many.
Fashion lovers look to runway shows for inspiration and insight on style predictions for the coming seasons. However, this season in particular, many of the week’s designers found themselves influencing much more than just the up-and-coming trends. Instead, they used their power and publicity to speak to political and social movements through their designs, guest-lists and model selections.
As show-goers and followers learn, a designer’s collection is only half of the show. While many of the Spring 2018 collections are worth acknowledging for their sheer beauty or interesting aesthetics, most designers were not making headlines for their clothing alone. Rather this Fashion Week’s memorable moments happened when industry leaders and newcomers alike used the runway as a platform for vocalizing their beliefs in spite of our tense political and social climates.
Specifically, the week’s chill-giving moments revolved around people. Shayne Oliver, who debuted his first collection for Helmut Lang, along with casting directors Ellis Scheinman and Walter Pearce, shocked audiences with their bold mix of model choices. “Where many this week have played it safe, using only established faces, Oliver, Ellis Scheinman, and Pearce take the opportunity to introduce the fashion world to a series of newcomers to watch,” according to (Vogue). “[T]hey created a model squad that wasn't defined by their Instagram follower count.” While our ‘insta-girl’ favs such as Gigi, Bella and Kendall are still any fashionista's style muses, their faces have become redundant on the runways. From London to Paris to New York, it is refreshing to see a cast of new faces and young talent.
Another show worth noting for its iconic moments is that of Prabal Gurung. Last season, Mr. Gurung embellished his runway with slogan tees and feminist statements. This season, continuing his desire to promote change, Mr. Gurung hosted a kick-ass front row featuring two incredibly inspirational women––Huma Abedin and Gloria Steinem. While it could have been easy for show watchers to get lost in the beautiful minimalism of the designer’s bold color choices and asymmetrical hems, it was impossible to ignore the importance of having such noteworthy women seated front-and-center. As said by (Vogue), “Steinem was his guest of honor, and his runway was more diverse than ever, with the Hadid sisters, Ashley Graham and Andreja Pejic among the bold-facers. Gurung is using his platform to promote change, and in a Fashion Week taking place among headlines about Hurricane Irma and other global catastrophes, that made this show feel vital.”
Fashion has always been used as a catalyst for social and political change; however, critics have judged the industry time and time again for its lack of diversity and for its shallowness. In the wake of an unsettling political climate, it is inspiring to see designers who recognize their potential to send meaningful messages that reach mass audiences. Hopefully, by next season, the catwalk will foster even more diverse castings and significant statements.