Fashion Industry Review: Culture And Politics Reign At New York Fashion Week

Fashion Industry Review: Culture And Politics Reign At New York Fashion Week

NYFW once again proves that the runway isn't just about clothes—but about context

Conner Dial, Fashion Editor
  • 21 february 2017

In the past decade, runway shows and fashion weeks have become somewhat of a pop cultural phenomenon. In the 20th century, these shows were put on behind closed doors for retailers or other fashion modules, but the last decade we saw a flux of hyper cinematic sets and psuedo-performance art pieces where the clothes were probably less interesting than what was happening on stage. New York Fashion Week‘s most recent Fall/Winter shows may be the start of a new era of fashion—while certain designers creeped back to the basics (compare Marc Jacob’s 2017 F/W runway show to his 2015 show) and others took an opportunity to comment on the giant elephant in the room: the American political landscape. The differences in how they approached the breadth of this topic gives us insight into how fashion and culture are intertwined, and possibly who these designers are looking to please.

Designers Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne for the brand Public School, appropriated the “iconic” (for lack of a better word) Make America Great Again slogan onto red caps with a twist: Make America New York. The designers branded their collection of amorphous and shapeless apparel with a phrase that has become synonymous with their brand, “We Need Leaders” alongside a picture of basketball player Michael Jordan, notorious for his apolitical stature.

New York-based, boutique style brand Creatures of Comfort followed suit in blunt commentaries with a T-shirt clad with the neon typography “We are all human beings.” Another T-shirt states, “People Are People.”

Fall 2017 Collection

A post shared by THE ROW (@therow) on

Diverging the world of politics and fashion isn’t completely unique to America’s fashion scene. Designers who took part in London Fashion Week used their platform to comment on Brexit. However, New York’s shows were interesting in that these political pieces were most often casual wear. Hats, T-shirts and simple sleeves were prominent.

As coastal elites are accused of being ultra-exlusionary, do these make an attempt to appeal to the mass consumer? With $300 cotton T-shirts, probably not. But they prove that Fashion Week has never really been about the clothes, but about what inspired the creations.

The theatrics of Chanel’s iconic take on the American grocery store have morphed into socio-political commentaries. Whether it’s trendy or faddish to be political is out of the question. However, by assigning meaning to their apparel, designers are ensuring that the oversaturated appeal of Fashion Week is grounded in substance.

New York Fashion Week | Public School


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