Style Points is a weekly column about how fashion intersects with the wider world.
The fashion moment that seemed to galvanize most people this season didn’t take place on the runway. When, on what happened to be the final day of New York Fashion Week, Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard announced that the eco-minded outdoor giant would be investing nearly all of its stock in an environmental nonprofit, declared, “Earth is now our sole shareholder,” my feeds exploded with enthusiasm that surpassed any I’d seen for recent catwalk turns.
Given that we are currently dealing with the reversal of Roe v. Wade and a proposed national abortion ban, an ongoing climate crisis and pandemic, war in Ukraine and potentially short-term statehood, you might have thought political statements on the runway would abound. But most of the collections felt like business as usual. However, there were some designers who used their platforms smartly, in ways that extended far beyond the confines of fashion week.
Chief among them was Gabriela Hearst, who brought out prominent women, including climate activist Xiye Bastida and former Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards, to walk her show. The collection, inspired by the poetry of Sappho and the artwork of Imi Knoebel, was anchored by a performance by the Resistance Renaissance Choir, which describes itself as “a collective of women + non-binary artists + activists who sing in the spirit of joy & resistance.” And, in keeping with Hearst’s green philosophy, the collection incorporated waste and recycling, as well as an offsetting partnership with Climeworks.
Imitation of Christ has been doing fashion shows as it happens (a fashion funeral, a skate park) since its beginnings in 2000. This season, instead of a show, the label based on recycled clothing held a protest with New York Communities for Change. Models and climate activists rallied outside Sen. Chuck Schumer’s home with “Navy is Death” signs and clothing to protest the politician’s deal with Sen. Joe Manchin that would result in the construction of new oil pipelines.
The collection itself touched on another hot topic: reproductive freedom. Designer Tara Subkoff spoke about a recurring nightmare she’s had ever since deer News. “I had to make art for her and create this image,” she said, “because I’m terrified that this is what the future holds for women in this country if we’re not able to speak up.” “This” is the dystopia post-deer Her lookbook vision and collection video: women wearing pregnancy prostheses, equipped with gas masks.
Erin Beatty of Rentrayage showed one Alice in Wonderland-inspired collection of pieces made from her ready-made: raw fabric and vintage clothing. Along with the environmental statement, she made one for reproductive rights, in the form of stitched-together T-shirts that read “Pro Roe.” At this point, she said in her show notes, “The role of fashion feels deliberately delusional. Not that this is a bad thing – now, more than ever, fashion should be an escape, a joy – yet we have to accept the weirdness of it all. For spring we focused on joy with a side of surreal.”
“Surreal” could also be applied to Victor Barragán’s spring offering, which marked the designer’s return to New York Fashion Week after a three-year absence. Entitled “DESPUÉS DEL CAOS VIENE LA LUZ” (AFTER CHAOS COMES LIGHT), the collection ventured into unexpected territory, from Woodstock ’99 to contemporary border politics. The designer called it “a post-Covid critique of American culture BACK TO BUSINESS, including its entrenched culture of whiteness,” complete with an all-white cast of models. He embraced American hyper-patriotism and capitalism with cut-off suits and empty purses, bill-and-dollar prints, and double-spawning T-statements (one read “Twice Canceled.”) Duct tape, which had a brief heyday. of fashion in the past, evoked not only that era, but also the idea of a bare, failed state. And as he has done in previous collections, Barragán has mixed cultural influences: for example, his native Mexico was present in FOOTBALL jerseys that evoke the hand-me-down he got growing up.
At Fe Noel, the final look was an attention grabber. A waterfall of paper money and taffeta, it was meant to raise awareness of a less-discussed gender pay gap: the 30 percent gap between men’s and women’s retirement incomes. (The look was part of a partnership with TIAA.) At a time when we’re rethinking women’s relationship with work, it was a refreshing update to the traditional fashion finale of a loose wedding dress.