Just weeks into Donald Trump’s presidency, here we are at New York Fashion Week – a hive of passion, positivity and creativity in the city Trump calls home. And a significant portion of the design elite shaping what we’ll wear next season are at pains to distance themselves from the controversial Republican leader.
Politics and fashion have always intertwined on the catwalk, be it through stunts standing up for gay marriage or animals rights to protests against sexism or climate change. From Mary Quant’s mini-skirt signalling greater sexual freedom for women in the ‘60s, Katherine Hamnett’s bold political slogan t-shirts of the ‘80s, to the burgeoning white bandana movement of today as a sign of “solidarity and human unity,” fashion is frequently a tool for social and political commentary.
This season several high-profile designers have made an unprecedented move towards a common cause – protesting the controversial actions of America’s new President. It’s proving a tricky balancing act for designers and fashion houses who need to maintain brand integrity, appeal to wealthy customers and engage wider audiences at the same time. Cool labels like Public School and Chromat can afford to be more direct and passionate in their catwalk criticism, while a more subtle ire is required of names like Calvin Klein, Victoria Beckham and Altuzarra.
It’s not a one-sided crossover either. Last week one of the US President’s paid advisers publicly endorsed Ivanka Trump’s eponymous fashion line on TV, telling Americans she was doing a “free commercial” for the collection that had just been dropped like a hot potato by luxury department chain Nordstrom for poor sales. “Go buy Ivanka’s stuff,” Kelly Anne Conway advised, sparking a row about violation of ethics laws.
This followed the President admonishing Nordstrom from the official White House Twitter account for rejecting his daughter’s line. He retweeted a message from his personal account that read: “My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by @Nordstrom. She is a great person -- always pushing me to do the right thing! Terrible!”
Presumably he didn’t run past her whether the “right thing” was to use government services to air grievances about his family’s personal income. Regardless, Nordstrom’s stock surged after Trump’s tweeting tantrum, so the designers who have not stayed silent on the President’s actions may well have done their own reputations no harm.
See the many ways the President has come under fire at Fashion Week...