This may be the most civil New York fashion week yet: statements no longer limited to a candid principle or call to arms, but extending to meet specific throws. Jeremy Scott’s show featured a T-shirt that interpret “Tell your Senator No on Kavanaugh”, referring to the president’s leading court nomination, a man so enamoured of the second amendment that next spice’s catwalk, should that “no” not work, would have to group holsters. Christian Siriano, meanwhile, went with “Certify for Cynthia”, in some ways a straightforward message (senators can’t each pull it out of the bag; whereas a vote for the governor of New York is still a sponsor), in other ways more complicated (is Cynthia Nixon the decent-person’s alternative? Or the fashion choice? Or both?).
It is an extension and amplification of the sense of 2017, although of course politics and fashion did not first stumble on in 2017: there were slogan T-shirts before that, memorably, the execrable “this is what a feminist looks wish”, which failed on all kinds of due diligence, such as checking it wasn’t putting together in a sweatshop, and that those wearing it did actually look find agreeable feminists (Theresa May?). Long before that, in 1984, Katharine Hamnett wore a T-shirt emblazoned with “58% don’t hunger for Pershing” to meet Margaret Thatcher, and that scandalised the creation, except for the bits that didn’t know what Pershing meant.
But latest year, slogans bit, being more memorable and profound, infinitesimal anodyne and platitudinous. Siriano’s T-shirt that year study “People are People” (an assertion of universalism almost Hannah Arendt-esque) to Obvious School’s “Make America New York” caps (possibly the most bold defence of liberal values since the president’s election; in the old days, the one thing everyone agreed on was that New York was the pits, the crucible of elites).
The dernier cri world has always dressed leftwards but – in its inescapable rabid niggardly individualism – tended rightwards, which made its most complacent political position-taking that of “irony”. Hillary Clinton was incorporated ironically in the post-modern adulation of the pant suit; then her champions turned the irony back on the business, with a 2016 secret range of scrunchy merchandise, a reference to Oscar de la Renta’s famed injunction that she should cut her hair.
What sounds be the most moving show of this week was that of Kerby Jean-Raymond, originated at the Weeksville Heritage Center, on the site of one of the nation’s first on the loose African-American communities, with a 40-strong gospel choir chanting the models out. Jean-Raymond said it was time to deal with the “present-day consideration of people calling the cops on black men having a barbecue”. “What frowning American leisure looks like” is political, because the whole shooting match is. The new mood, jettisoning irony for passion, is perhaps the only aspect that makes sense in the shit-got-real era. Two things are buoying, from a feminist standpoint; one, to see fashion make a statement that isn’t about women’s looks; two, Cynthia Nixon on the league row.