Do fashion and politics mix?

New York Fashion Week is trumping The Donald

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Fashion makes a point

Dame Vivienne Westwood is the designer most associated with getting a political point across.

And the original grande dame of punk - who in 1977 was photographed in a t-shirt emblazoned with a bold red Nazi swastika, an inverted image of Christ on the cross, the word “DESTROY,” and Sex Pistols lyrics - is still doing it at 75.

The Spring 2016 show for the Vivienne Westwood Red Label, “Politicians R Criminals,” began with the designer and her models walking down the street to the venue, with signs that read “Austerity is a Crime” and “Fracking is a Crime.” (Her son, Joe Corre, is the head of the non-profit Talk Fracking Organization.) They ended up on an elevated ramp overlooking the runway, after which more models walked in easy, loose-fitting designs and prints, some with smears of black make-up over their eyes like masks.

“I have a voice because I’m a well-known fashion designer,” Westwood told the Press Association, “and this gives me the opportunity to open my mouth.”

AW95’s “Highland Rape” show byAlexander McQueen saw the iconic provocateur, who died in 2010, present one of the most controversial fashion collections of all time.

Bruised and battered models stumbled across the runway with disoriented facial expressions, clothed in tatters of tartan and lace.

McQueen hit back at criticisms of “misogyny,” explaining that he wanted to empower females by portraying “the way society sees women, not how I see them.” The distressed models were also a metaphor for England’s “rape” of Scotland in the 18th and 19th centuries – an “ethnic cleansing” by British forces that the fiercely patriotic McQueen wanted to ensure wouldn’t disappear into the annals of history.

Katharine Hamnett was the pioneer of the political slogan t-shirt. Her most famous was her first, stating “Choose Life”, but a later slogan, Use a condom, also caused a stir when Naomi Campbell wore it on the runway in 2003.

Fashion’s enfant terrible Jean Paul Gaultier caused a sensation when he sent men down the runway wearing skirts in his 1984 Paris show “And God Created Man.”

“We’d rather go naked than wear fur,” read the tagline above the heads of Naomi Campbell and four fellow models in Peta’s iconic 1994 campaign poster. The black and white image was one in a series of glamorous shots which gathered together the most recognisable supermodels of the 90s, including Christy Turlington, Elle MacPherson and Cindy Crawford.

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All the ways Fashion Week is trumping Donald Trump

Just weeks into Donald Trump’s presidency, here we are at New York Fashion Week – a hive of passion, positivity and creativity in the city Trump calls home. And a significant portion of the design elite shaping what we’ll wear next season are at pains to distance themselves from the controversial Republican leader.

Politics and fashion have always intertwined on the catwalk, be it through stunts standing up for gay marriage or animals rights to protests against sexism or climate change. From Mary Quant’s mini-skirt signalling greater sexual freedom for women in the ‘60s, Katherine Hamnett’s bold political slogan t-shirts of the ‘80s, to the burgeoning white bandana movement of today as a sign of “solidarity and human unity,” fashion is frequently a tool for social and political commentary.

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