These are the designers celebrating women at New York Fashion Week

In the wake of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, a spotlight has be shone on the treatment of women in all industries.

Fashion is a powerful way to make a statement – just look at the majority of people at the Golden Globes wearing black to protest sexual harassment. After the Harvey Weinstein scandal rocked the film industry, fashion is now having its own reckoning with famous photographers like Mario Testino and Bruce Weber being accused of sexual exploitation of models.

With this social backdrop, many designers at New York Fashion Week have used their collections to celebrate the power of women. Brandon Maxwell and Prabal Gurung in particular used their platform to show that it’s now the fashion industry’s turn to engage with Time’s Up, and Christian Siriano also took the opportunity to show how strong women are.

Brandon Maxwell

(Craig Ruttle/AP)

American designer Maxwell was particularly moved by current gender politics when creating his collection. He explains on Instagram: “I felt more of a responsibility this season than I ever have before, to the women that wear our clothes, to the women that make them, and to myself, to do better, to be better. I’m so incredibly fortunate to have been given this chance, and I need to rise to that occasion and honour that opportunity.”

With that in mind, Maxwell’s collection was inspired by the strength of women. He writes: “My life dream was always to be able to use whatever talents I had to help women feel strong and powerful, the way they have for me, and if I’ve accomplished that with just one woman, then that’s a success.”

Fall has always been a hard season for me, emotionally and creatively, for so many reasons. I can’t explain it in simple terms, but it’s always been a struggle. This season I have really taken a different approach to my life and my work. I had something to prove to myself, not to others, because I’m my own worst critic and the review I give myself after the show is over is often the one that stings the most. I felt more of a responsibility this season than I ever have before, to the women that wear our clothes, to the women that make them, and to myself, to do better, to be better. I’m so incredibly fortunate to have been given this chance, and I need to rise to that occasion and honor that opportunity. To accomplish that I had to set out on what has been the single most solitary experience I have ever had in my career. I rarely went outside and socialized or distracted myself with other activities, I spent 18-20 hours almost every day consumed with creating, learning, refining. Inevitably as you get closer to the finish line you start to grow tired, anxious, overwhelmed. Will it all have been worth it? Today is officially the two week mark before our Fall/Winter 2018 runway show and as I sat alone in my office contemplating my life and my future, a welcomed gift came. The new @cfda and @boothmoore book “American Runway, 75 Years of Fashion and the Front Row,” was delivered to me. As I read through its pages I was surprised to find this quote about me from @adwoaaboah . Maybe it’s the fatigue, but it instantly brought tears to my eyes. It touched me immensely and helped me to realize that it all already has been worth it, no matter what happens. Seasons come and seasons go, each teaches you different things, sometimes they are loved and sometimes they are not, but hopefully you grow. My life dream was always to be able to use whatever talents I had to help women feel strong and powerful, the way they have for me, and if I’ve accomplished that with just one woman, then that’s a success. Thank you to @adwoaaboah for your kind words. You have given me the energy I needed to push through, and you have given me the review that matters most. Love you.

A post shared by Brandon Maxwell (@brandonmaxwell) on

Some of the biggest models in the industry walked the show, from Gigi Hadid to Karlie Kloss and Joan Smalls. Maxwell’s aesthetic was powerful – think 80s power dressing with a casual glamour vibe.

At the end of the show, the designer traditionally comes out and waves as the crowd cheers. Maxwell did something different this time round, he brought out his entire design team, who are mostly women.

Fall Winter 2018 is a valentine to the intentionality and grace of the women who I work with and the women who wear my clothes. Any designer knows that this is not a job that you do alone. I’ve often compared this career path to a relay race. You do the best job that you can, and then you pass the baton to your teammate in front of you to bring it to the finish line. I started this race with a very simple dream, to create clothes that made women feel beautiful. So many people have worked so selflessly to help bring my dream through to the finish line so many times, and I am eternally grateful to each and every one. For @wonderfulboy, who through his unwavering love and patience has taught me that my value does not lie in what is said about me after the race but rather in the honesty and hard work with which I approach it. Most special thanks to every single woman who walked in this show, my love for you is deep. Production: @dizoninc PR: @kcdworldwide Set Design: @marlaweinhoff Lighting Director: @nytelyte Music: @sebperrinparis Casting: @jamespscully Styling: @georgecortina Creative Movement Director: @mr_stephengalloway Make-up: @tompecheux Hair: @jamespecis Nails: @deborahlippmann Florals: @putnamflowers Special Thanks: @maccosmetics @swarovski @oribe @dysonhair @karunaskin

A post shared by Brandon Maxwell (@brandonmaxwell) on

It was the designer’s way of paying tribute to all the women he works with and it was an emotional moment as models and attendees applauded Maxwell and the team.

Prabal Gurung

Prabal Gurung is known for being a particularly political designer, and his latest runway show was no different. The collection itself was predominantly inspired by the Mosuo, a matriarchal tribe in the Yunnan province of China. As such, women were front and centre of this show.

(Andres Kudacki/AP)

Gurung told the New York Times before the show: “What I really found fascinating — especially in today’s time when we’re talking about solidarity and women coming together — is that in parts of the world, it’s been an existing part of life that we don’t even think about.”

Raised in Nepal by a single mother, Gurung’s designs have often been themed around the power of women. This collection celebrates “female solidarity,” and to close the show all the models walked the runway holding a white rose – a symbol of the Time’s Up movement that we previously saw at the Grammys.

It wasn’t just the runway that represented female equality, but also the front row. Alongside the expected celebrities like Cardi B and Olivia Palermo sat Tarana Burke – the founder of the #MeToo movement. Burke told WWD that she was supporting Gurung because: “He’s shown a real interest and desire to amplify the voices of women and women’s issues. He has a real connection to what’s happening in the world around women.”

Christian Siriano

(Bebeto Matthews/AP)

Siriano also celebrated women in his collection, but not in such an overtly political way. Instead, for his 10th anniversary show the American designer made a conscious and visible effort to be inclusive of all women.

(Bebeto Matthews/AP)

This meant that all shapes, sizes and ages stomped the runway, in clothes that showed off everyone’s bodies to perfection. Models included Danielle Brooks (who plays Taystee in Orange Is The New Black), 45-year-old actor Selma Blair and plus-size model Ashley Graham walked in the lavish show.

Perhaps the best thing about Siriano’s show was that it didn’t feel like tokenism, he was just representing a much more accurate cross-section of women than we’re normally used to in fashion. Not only that, but he obviously has a close relationship to the women he dresses –  Brooks’ Instagram post says it all.


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