To the left

Me­la­nia Trump didn’t at­tend New York fash­ion week, but what she wore 200 miles away in Wash­ing­ton opened the flood­gates for all the lib­eral shows on the cat­walk.

The Guardian - G2 - - Style - By Han­nah Mar­riott

The most head-scratch­ing moment of New York fash­ion week was not part of the of­fi­cial sched­ule. It hap­pened more than

200 miles away from the cat­walks, in fact, in Wash­ing­ton DC, when Me­la­nia Trump dis­em­barked from Ma­rine

One on Sun­day wear­ing a red Calvin Klein shirt with beige epaulettes and a sharply pointed col­lar.

This was strange, for any­one who knows their fash­ion ref­er­ences, be­cause Trump’s shirt was recog­nis­ably part of Bel­gian de­signer Raf Si­mons’s first col­lec­tion for Calvin Klein. Si­mons is the sort of brainy, arty de­signer beloved by the “lib­eral elite” the pres­i­dent pro­fesses to hate. His take on the US megabrand has mined the tropes of Amer­i­cana – prairie quilts, cow­boy boots, the star-span­gled ban­ner – in what has been in­ter­preted by crit­ics as an at­tempt to re­claim the Amer­i­can dream from the po­lit­i­cal right.

Trump prob­a­bly wasn’t try­ing to make a com­plex po­lit­i­cal state­ment when she wore the $695 (£524) top.

She pos­si­bly chose it be­cause its beige de­tails co­or­di­nated with her big beige Her­mès Birkin hand­bag, but that doesn’t make her adop­tion of Si­mons’s take on Amer­i­cana feel any less meta. The pic­tures also un­der­line the fact that – although the fash­ion in­dus­try is proudly run by lib­er­als and im­mi­grants – a de­signer’s per­sonal ideals may not be echoed by those who can ac­tu­ally af­ford to buy the mer­chan­dise.

Si­mons’s sec­ond Calvin Klein show, which opened New York fash­ion week on Thurs­day, was darker than his de­but. It ex­plored the Amer­i­can dream plus “Amer­i­can night­mares”. Vi­o­lent pho­to­graphs from Andy Warhol’s Death and Dis­as­ter se­ries were printed on jeans and vests, while hor­ror film ref­er­ences – blood-splat­tered dresses, shoes mod­elled af­ter Jason’s hockey mask in Fri­day the 13th – were the col­lec­tion’s cen­tre­pieces. This twisted take on pa­tri­o­tism was a trend at the shows, with Monse – a favourite la­bel of Amal Clooney and Ri­hanna – pre­sent­ing stars and stripes and se­quinned base­ball vests that had been shred­ded and nib­bled. That show was pre­sum­ably sup­posed to be cheer­ful – none other than Min­nie Mouse sat in the front row – but all of that art­ful fray­ing at the seams felt pretty melan­choly.

New York fash­ion week took place at a dis­as­trous time for the US. The open­ing cer­e­mony staged a dance event di­rected by Spike Jonze and sold tick­ets to raise money for Hur­ri­cane Har­vey – a sad turn of events in which fundrais­ing ef­forts were not able to keep up with nat­u­ral dis­as­ters. Small talk be­tween shows – usu­ally of the “how was your sum­mer?” va­ri­ety – of­ten touched on Don­ald Trump’s lack of con­cern about global warm­ing. But there was also a dis­con­nect at play: not once did I hear the de­sign­ers ad­dress­ing the fash­ion in­dus­try’s own of­ten waste­ful role in dam­ag­ing the en­vi­ron­ment.

In­stead, de­sign­ers chose to make so­cially con­scious state­ments about eth­nic­ity and gen­der. There was a proim­mi­gra­tion col­lec­tion from Pub­lic School, in which clothes were dec­o­rated with the slo­gan “Come Again” while de­signer Dao-yi Chow wore a cap with a Daca Dream­ers logo to protest against the threat of de­por­ta­tion young im­mi­grants are fac­ing now that Don­ald Trump has scrapped the pro­gram that pro­tected them. At Pra­bal Gu­rung, there was talk about the “de-gen­deri­sa­tion of colour”, an idea man­i­fest on the

cat­walk as bright-pink, mid-blue and bright-yel­low chif­fon dresses. On the front row sat Gloria Steinem, at­tend­ing her first fash­ion show at the age of 83, one seat away from Hil­lary Clin­ton’s right hand woman, Huma Abe­din.

There was no room for in­tro­spec­tion at Alexan­der Wang’s show, how­ever, where the Kar­dashi­ans helped gen­er­ate buzz for a few sportswear and chain­mail looks that were pre­sented out­doors in the in­dus­trial depths of Bush­wick. Af­ter­wards, a newly sil­ver­haired Kim Kar­dashian and mother Kris Jen­ner were whisked away in a blacked­out SUV by a team of large, shaven­headed, suited men who had the air of se­cret-ser­vice op­er­a­tives. The en­su­ing af­ter­party fea­tured blar­ing hip-hop piped into a se­ries of bouncy cas­tles, mil­len­ni­als wear­ing head­dresses say­ing “Wan­gover” and a cen­tre­piece com­pris­ing hun­dreds of dough­nuts piled high.

There were rea­sons to be cheer­ful. The cast­ing felt more in­clu­sive than ever, with a few plus-sized mod­els and one very preg­nant model on the cat­walks, as well as di­verse eth­nic­i­ties and even – gasp – women in their mid-to­late 30s at shows such as Jeremy Scott’s ebul­lient 20th-an­niver­sary pre­sen­ta­tion. That might not seem like much but, for fash­ion, it is progress.

Fe­male bosses pro­lif­er­ated. Vic­to­ria Beck­ham, for one, made a case for soft power with her pas­tel colours punc­tu­ated with glit­tery shoes, de­signed, she said, to demon­strate “strength in del­i­cacy”. VB had launched a ma­jor makeup col­lec­tion a few days be­fore her show, as did fel­low celebrity mogul, Ri­hanna. The lat­ter’s Fenty x Puma show also rev­elled in the power of glit­ter – the set was a se­ries of pink sparkling sand dunes – and en­com­passed sporty hy­brids such as high-heeled wedges with neon go-faster de­tail­ing.

The idea that pow­er­ful women can wear pas­tels and glit­ter if they want to – that, like men, they can cul­ti­vate what­ever per­sonal aes­thetic they choose with­out be­ing judged – chimed with the cheer­ing moment broad­cast in the midst of fash­ion week when, dur­ing the Miss Amer­ica con­test, Mar­gana Wood, aka Miss Texas, de­scribed Char­lottesville as “a ter­ror­ist at­tack”. She was spotlit on stage at the time, wear­ing a sparkly white dress, her blond hair ar­ranged over one shoul­der. Beauty pageants aren’t my thing; but as an il­lus­tra­tion of the ar­gu­ment that you never know what fe­male em­pow­er­ment will look like, it was per­fect.

A twisted take on pa­tri­o­tism was on show at Calvin Klein and Monse

Kris Jen­ner and Kim Kar­dashian( left); Me­la­nia Trump in Calvin Klein(main); Miss Texas Mar­gana Wood (be­low)

(Left) Ken­dall Jen­ner for Alexan­der Wang;(be­low) Gloria Steinem, Cleo Wade and Huma Abe­din; (in­set) a Monse look; (bot­tom right) pas­tels by Vic­to­ria Bech­ham

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