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Stylishly Significant or Fashion Faux Pas?

Recently, politics have strongly affected life in America, from the Academy Awards to family relations to business ventures. With Nordstrom’s recent announcement that the department store would be dropping Ivanka Trump’s line, the intersection between fashion and politics has become a national argument. Traditionally, runway politics have centered on the ethics of genuine leather and the runway model’s BMIs, but this year, political affiliation has become more prominent than ever. Men’s Fashion Week in New York was no exception.

Designer Robert James’s collection featured models holding signs reading “#RESIST,” “#RefugeesWelcome,” and “Planned Parenthood Saves Lives” in response to President Trump’s ban on immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries and the nationwide defunding of Planned Parenthood earlier this year. The collection featured military-inspired pieces and a style indicative of a transient, refugee-esque lifestyle. James’s display expressed discontent for the favoritism allotted to Christian refugees over Muslims under the ban. This blatant display of discrimination and clear violation of the First Amendment has given judges across the country reason to contest the ban and caused it to be unanimously overturned by the federal judiciary earlier this week.

Willy Chavarria’s debut hosted a cast of models mainly of Mexican descent, scouted from the street, making a statement about Trump’s disparaging attitude toward immigration. Chavarria even went so far as to include “an intolerance for hate” in the application requirements for his models. A post on Chavarria’s official Instagram called one of the models “Mexican, sexy wetback, fearless immigrant” in an effort to further show Chavarria’s disapproval of Trump’s immigration policies.

Private Policy sent its models down the catwalk with political buzzwords like “refugee,” “terrorist,” and “drug dealer” written on their faces. This isolationist rhetoric present in President Trump’s campaign was used to signify the importance of global unity and the need for international organizations like the UN and NATO to keep operating at full capacity.

The idea of clothes projecting a person’s ideals appeals not only to New Yorkers, but also to fashion meccas across the globe. London’s 2017 Men’s Fashion Week was fraught with mentions of Brexit, and Paris’s shows lacked subtlety in their commentary on current international chaos. Fashion design has always been a poignant medium of self-expression, but now has been transformed into a platform for designers to send the world a powerful message.

As the political climate in the United States spreads international anxiety, artistic resistance is hard at work, speaking out against inequality and reaching past that highest and hardest glass ceiling. Someday, somebody—politician or artist or activist—will shatter it. And hopefully that day will come sooner than we think.

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Feb. 13 print edition. 

Kate Holland is a contributing writer. Email her at violetvision@nyunews.com.

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