The fashion industry has long been shrouded in a misunderstanding that it is inherently materialistic or narcissistic to care about one’s clothing. Many ponder how it can be possible to find depth in designer brands and runway shows.
They fail to observe however, that fashion is powerful and often exerts its power most forcefully where it goes unnoticed.
Clothing trends have the ability to take the world by storm, streaming an idea or silhouette from pole to pole. They have the ability to communicate societal and political concerns through the subtleties of shape, colour, and tone. The pieces that rise to popularity define and reflect what it means to live in a particular era.
Just as art is capable of holding a mirror up to society, so does fashion. It is anything but trivial.
The power I delineate here came to life on the runways of New York, London, Milan, and Paris this past fashion month.
Prabal Gurung, a Nepalese fashion designer, dressed his models in various graphic tees featuring slogans like “The Future is Female” and “Nevertheless She Persisted” at his February 12th show. He credits the Woman’s March in January as his primary inspiration for the shirts.
Public School, whose creative direction is led by Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne, pointed fingers directly at the current American administration. Models not only walked to “This Land is Your Land”, but they also sported baseball hats with “44 ½” stitched on the side along with shirts that read “We Need Leaders”.
Across the pond, Ashish Gupta spread a similar message throughout his show. His models wore brightly-coloured, glitter-soaked garments that displayed messages in line with Gupta’s vision that in the face of the new American administration, we must unite against hate. The show’s motto was “Love Sees No Colour.”
On a similar note, Diesel’s debut PR campaign at London Fashion Week featured the slogan “#MakeLoveNotWalls”. The clothing for the corresponding collection was designed to suit all shapes and sizes, signifying inclusivity.
Other designers took a more subtle approach to displaying their political voice. One such designer is Daniel W. Fletcher. His menswear collection featured sleek looks designed with a new generation of political activists in mind, according to the designer.
In the wake of the political unrest caused by the likes of Brexit and Trump, fashion designers have had a lot of inspiration to work with. This has given them the opportunity to display fashion at its most powerful.
That is not to say that the only meaning fashion possesses is one that is politically charged. Fashion can be equally as escapist as it is realist. Fashion reflects society after all, and it is in that reflection where its true meaning stands.