Three months after the US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v Wade and reverse the constitutional right to a legal abortion that had stood for nearly half a century, New York designer Gabriela Hearst took New York fashion week to dress Cecile Richards “statement casting”. , a former president of Planned Parenthood, on her spring runway.
This fashion week is the first since June’s decision, and as of Tuesday afternoon, wearing a black double-breasted coat with rose gold stripes on the lapels, the suffragette was among the 50 “goddesses and warriors” including teenage climate activist Xiye Bastida and amputee model and activist Lauren Wasser.
The show wasn’t explicitly aimed at women’s reproductive rights, instead focusing on those that have been overlooked, inspired by the ancient Greek poet Sappho – often thought of as the female Homer – who was only discovered by Hearst after her daughter decided to dress like her for Halloween. “I wonder if I would have heard from her if she had been born a male,” she said ahead of the show.
The Uruguayan-born designer launched her womenswear label in 2015 with the sole aim of making clothes that women can actually wear, albeit at a three or four figure price point. Although both women’s and men’s fashion was shown on Tuesday, the modest number of actual men walking the runway – there were a few, although they appeared to women mostly as accessories and dressed in complimentary color suits – was an attempt to put women front and center the show.
With leather and nappa (faux leather) dresses with gold breastplates, floor-length merino wool dresses knit like cobwebs, poppy-colored suits and fisherman-style sandals, the collection was somewhere between ancient and modern Greece, except in a warm corrugated iron hangar in Brooklyn, typically a hub for 10 million pounds of fish a year and once the scene of a Democratic debate between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. The Resistance Revival Chorus, a collective of women and non-binary singers, underscored the show, dressed appropriately in white floor-length dresses.
Hearst, who lives in New York and is also responsible for Chloé, has made a quiet entrance into the fashion world at a time when women’s designs were a rarity for women. Known for catching two of the most visible women in US politics — Jill Biden, who wore two versions of the same embroidered gown on the night of the inauguration and first address to Congress, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who wore a teal suit wore a fashion shoot for Interview magazine – Hearst is also known for their sustainable manufacturing practices.
In this spring collection, a third of the collection was made from dead fabrics and the soles of the shoes were mostly biodegradable. Even the glue holding the gold foil knit dresses together was eco-certified – not to mention the warehouse was packed with international press and buyers.
Elsewhere in this surprisingly sustainable NYFW, circularity made its way onto the Coach runway, where leather footballs and vintage leather jackets were reworked into overalls, coats and bags under British designer Stuart Vevers.
Vevers’ collection paid homage to his love of American neo-noir cinema. Set on a rickety New York pier and referencing everything from Paris is Burning to “Joey Ramone in Rockaway Beach and Patti Smith in Coney Island,” it was all about modern proportions and bare legs. Seven oversized chocolate brown leather jackets, a pair of trousers and a beautiful patchwork coat were followed by a handful of color splattered knitwear and finally a variety of pastel and gingham short babydoll dresses. Shoes were high tops or rubber sandals in bright colors – very 80’s, very distressed Dorothy in Oz.
In both cases it was clothing that looked to the future as she worked with the fabrics – and a mood firmly anchored in the past.
Related: Can fashion be sustainable? Yes, says Gabriela Hearst of Chloé