Pussy Riot

The break-out trend of the season so far? Activism. Political innuendo becomes the new black.

By Sarah O’Hegarty

A collective movement towards kindness shouldn’t be newsworthy but if there’s anything today’s fraught political landscape has taught us, it’s that nothing should be taken for granted. In this moment, as Brexit looms and Donald Trump dooms, does the simple act of being kind – something that sadly is no longer a given – form a political statement in itself? Given the political, and moral, ambiguity of today, it seems so. This season, heritage British retailer, Browns, launched a Cool to Be Kind campaign. It filled the windows of its stores with messages – call them little pick-me-ups – by street artist Andy Leek that decree ‘Vibes are Viral’, ‘Kindness is Sexy’ and ‘Good Shit Happens’ in a move that company CEO, Holli Rogers, described as a move to “communicate who we are and what we stand for as a brand”.

Through the decades, fashion has acted as a socio-political thermometer of sorts; a cultural temperature-taker, if you will. Each designer addresses his or her politics via what they send down the runway; the choice of model, the design, the materials used, the deeper symbols and codes of a show itself – nothing is safe from political over-spill. Watching the recent fashion weeks proved that designers are turning their disgust at Trump’s anti-feminist and immigration policies into a springboard for sartorial discourse. The biggest difference today is that politics often used to be a ‘thing’ that fashion would tout in a particular season – the same as ruffles or the colour purple. Often a political statement is thrown into the mix every couple of years by a design house (see, Chanel) to shake things up and increase viral
opportunity.

 

Even last season’s t-shirts at Christian Dior, which decreed We Should All Be Feminists, riffing on author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s words, were symptomatic of a simpler time: back then, they could be viewed as verging into the novelty; now they are essential, another part of the armour in our fight back against political unbalance. For many it started with a white bandana, tied around the wrist, worn by models and designers, including Gigi Hadid, as a simple show of unity. Elsewhere, it was apt at upand- comer Raul Solis’ NYFW show – the designer sent models down the runway in underpants that screamed ‘Fuck your wall’ and ‘No ban. No wall’. Spoiler alert: Solis is Mexican. Unsurprisingly, he wasn’t alone in his outrage. Creatures of Comfort chose its message to be ‘We are all human beings’, the vehicle of choice was the crew-neck jumper, while Prabul Gurung weighed in with a simple ‘The future is female.’
Such micro-acts of politicism are set to continue beyond catwalk tents; and they already have – see the clutch of starlets, including Emma Stone, who walked the Oscars red carpet juxtaposing Planned Parenthood pins with haute couture. There will be those who say it doesn’t matter. But it does. The old adage that tells us if we’re not part of the solution, then we’re part of the problem may seem too  versimplified; but in this case, it couldn’t be more appropriate.