From political sloganeering to space-age escapism, pulp-thriller femmes fatales to radical blobs, Jamie Huckbody welcomes a new fashion season and asks, are you ready for lift-off?
“Fashion is not vacuous. It’s where a lot of ideas are conveyed,” Miuccia Prada stated some years ago, as we discussed politics and radicalism over tea. “Fashion is far more serious than people think.” It’s something with which Diana Vreeland, the visionary Harper’s BAZAAR editrix (whose unconventional wisdom seems even more pertinent in this, our 150th anniversary year) would surely have agreed: “You can even see the approaching of revolution in clothes,” she famously quipped.
So what to make of the Autumn/Winter ’17 collections, hailed by many as the most radical in years and set against a backdrop of political turmoil in much of the West? Well, proceedings kicked off with war of words in New York as designers quickly mobilised themselves into third-wave feminist formation following newly crowned Trump’s withdrawal of federal funds from organisations that “promote” abortion internationally, his running misogynistic commentary, and the immigration ban. Cue Creatures of Comfort’s long-sleeved silk tees emblazoned with the slogan “We Are All Human Beings”; Prabal Gurung’s finale of pants suits and statement tees—“The Future Is Female”, “I Am An Immigrant”, “We Will Not Be Silenced”—and pin badges declaring “Fashion Stands With Planned Parenthood” worn on the runways and front rows.
“It’s important, no matter whether you’re a fashion designer or an activist, to make a statement whenever you have the opportunity,” said Sydney-raised Ryan Lobo who, along with his Tome design partner in crime, Ramon Martin, attended the Women’s March on Washington, DC, and took inspiration from Guerrilla Girls, the anonymous all-woman activist art co-op whose members Martin had the chance to meet. That explained the “GG” initialling on the backs of blazers and the trompe-l’oeil va-va-voom curves created from contrasting panels and piping with carefully placed buttons—a cheeky wink to the Free the Nipple campaign.
Not that every political statement was as explicit. Raf Simons’s romantic, immigrant’s view of Americana for his Calvin Klein debut saw the Belgian designer win both the menswear and womenswear Designer of the Year gongs at this year’s CFDA awards, proving yet again that the American dream has always been created by/for the outsider. “All of these different people with different styles and dress codes—it is the coming together of different characters and different individuals,” Simons explained, “just like America itself.”
Throw Brexit into the political hotpot and the only thing on London designers’ minds was to escape to the moon. “Anywhere but here, right now,” said Christopher Kane in jest as he sent out origamisharp skirts, tops, and dresses sliced from posh drawing-room brocades; shiny floral corsages and asymmetric metallic patchworks for a Brit aristo-Avatar mash-up. And with this inimitable knack of
Maria Grazia Chiuri’s democratic collection for Dior Autumn/Winter ’17