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Political Fashion Statements & the Public Agenda

Published by Anne Johnson on

By Ari Odom

Since the 2016 election, and the moments leading up to it, the country has been shaken with politically charged movements. From television to newspapers it seems like every day there is a new story about Donald Trump or someone who sharply opposes him and his ideas. Whether its morning news report on CNN or the morning paper from the New York Times, these stories and statements always pack a punch.

In similar form, the fashion industry has seen a spike in bold, political statements on the runway. The New York Fashion Week (NYFW) and London Fashion Week (LFW) are prime examples of this powerful medium of self-expression. Fashion is, an art. And these artists, the designers, made very conscious choices to display their new lines of clothing in a political manner. The topics ranged from police brutality to women’s reproductive rights to climate change.

At this past year’s NYFW show, Pierre Davis braved the runway for her own brand, No Sesso. She is the first black transgender woman to ever show at NYFW. Her presence at the show is a large statement enough. Her power, confidence, and bravery is a testimony to this woman’s strength and her ability to proudly grace the runway at a time when America is highly divisive and unaccepting of anyone that disrupts the “norm”. (

This political content is not new to this year’s fashion week shows, and the first wave of political runway shows came in the wake of Donald Trump’s inauguration. In 2017, Collina Strada designer Hillary Tamour’s runway show called “Terraform Mars” alluded to climate change and the rapid decline of Earth’s resources. She mentioned at the end of the show that soon Mars will be the “only option.” (


In his 2017 London Fashion Week show, London-based fashion designer Ashish Gupta took a few shots at President Trump for his reckless Twitter habits. As pictured below, his models wore glitter sweatshirts with the writing “Nasty Woman” and “More Glitter Less Twitter.” (


All of these statements, whether from 2017 or 2019 have a purpose. These public displays of opinion are just one of the many ways people enforce the public’s agenda. These bold statements are coming from high-end designers that usually have lots of wealth, which often means power in today’s society. All of these people are stakeholders. The fashion community is largely run by women and queer people who often feel they are after-thoughts in the policy-making and policy formulation processes.

Although not all of the messages are as overt as the examples shown above, there are so many influential designers putting on historical shows. The TOMMYXZENDAYA portion of the NYFW show featured a Harlem Renaissance block party. Rihanna’s Savage Fenty show featured a black woman, and the women that surrounded her were of all different races, ethnicities, shapes and sizes. These designers are not keeping their feelings and opinions quiet. They all have decided to use this literal platform of a runway to push forward their agenda. They are speaking up for people that are often not heard.


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