Of all the tweets coming fast and furious into my feed in the days after Charlottesville, my favorite, maybe, was this one: Comedian Megan Amram’s comment, “I’m starting to think my ‘Coexist’ bumper sticker isn’t working.” Indeed. If there was one sequence of events in the past tumultuous year that served to unmask the residual complacency underlying much of the #Resistance, it was the neo-Nazi march on Emancipation Park, the murder-by-car of Heather Heyer, and President Trump’s shocking conflation of the violence of counter-protesters defending the worthiest of America’s values and that of torch-bearers advancing the cause of hate. As Amram’s tweet implied, if we really want to bring this country back from the brink, we’re going to have to fight for what we believe in. We’re going to have to organize. We’re going to have to put our money where our mouth is. The time for virtue signaling is over.
Which brings me to Fashion Week. It’s going to be tempting, I realize, for designers to use the most high-profile platform they have—their fashion shows—to demonstrate their support for diversity by sending models out in slogan tees. I sympathize with the impulse, but to all the designers out there reading this, I have a suggestion: Don’t do it. Don’t do it unless you’ve taken a good, hard look at your business and can say to yourself, in all honesty, that you practice what you preach. Do you hire people of all colors and religions and class backgrounds? Do you treat your workers with respect, pay them fairly, and offer them reasonable family-leave policies? Do you work with vendors and stores that are ethical in these ways? And: Are the collections you design and the shows you stage promoting a vision of the society you’d like to see, or are they rehashing toxic tropes? I’m serious about that last point. How can we use fashion to articulate a community of the welcoming, generous, and strong in our resolve to beat back attacks on our beliefs? Solidarity fashion, I mean.
Our community needs to take a stand in other ways, too. Since the election in November, a number of brands have credibly gone past sloganeering by donating funds to groups such as the ACLU and Planned Parenthood. That’s great, but as an industry, we should also be showing solidarity with workers’ rights movements, because “choice” is meaningless if you’re an ill-paid, precariously employed store clerk who can’t afford to take a day off work—or a few—in order to get an abortion. And we should be doing everything in our power to support DACA kids, more than a few of whom, I bet, have parents who labor in the garment trade. As individuals, meanwhile, we ought to be asking ourselves some tough questions about the state of play here in deep-blue New York City: Are we in the fight for fair housing, fair school funding, fair policing and sentencing? Because cheering on “diversity” is so much cant if people operating at a structural deficit are never given the opportunity to succeed.
Slogan tees have a proud history. The ones sold by Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood out of their shop in the King’s Road in the 1970s had a genuine power to shock—in part thanks to their novelty, in part thanks to the fact that the messages were truly transgressive of mainstream culture at the time. I’m sure there are people for whom the phrase We Should All Be Feminists is provoking—I mean, Gamergate exists, I get it—but that’s not quite the same thing as being subversive, as actively prompting a challenge to power. We should all be feminists. But, you know, how? In what ways? Much of the potency of Katharine Hamnett’s slogan tees came from their specificity. She wasn’t afraid to advocate policy—to wit, when she wore a tee that read 58% Don’t Want Pershing, referring to a proposed missile site in the U.K.—when she met then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Slogan tees that are specific and speak directly to authority? I’m all for that.
And so I’ve got one caveat for my no-slogans policy. Alessandro Michele, feel free to fill the windows of the Gucci store on the ground floor of Trump Tower with mannequins wearing tees that read Love Trumps Hate. Or, better yet, Health Care Is a Human Right, Climate Change Is Real and Happening, Black Lives Matter, Voter Fraud Is a Made-Up Problem, and What’s in Those Tax Returns?(Optional addition: Jared Kushner Still Owes Maya Singer Her Security Deposit.) Location, location, location, as the real-estate bros say.Read more at:black evening dress | pink cocktail dresses