Can You Stay Apolitical When Betsy DeVos Is One Of Your Biggest Supporters?

Photo: Mike Pont/WireImage.
It’s President Trump’s fourth week in office, and Betsy DeVos’ first week as Education Secretary. On the other side of things, it's also Fashion Week, where DeVos’ sister-in-law, Pamella Roland, is showing her fall ’17 collection. Among all of the fashion brands that have deliberately engaged with the current administration through dressing members of Trump’s family and inner circle, Roland has found herself in a politicized environment that had never before been a focus of her show.

“She’s my sister-in-law,” Roland said of DeVos. “I love her. She’s been one of my biggest supporters since day one. My business is over 15 years old, and she’s been one of my number-one customers for years. And she look great in my clothes.”

Roland now finds herself attempting to stay above politics, as well as the boycotts and online chatter about fashion brands who support Trump initiatives. “I think it’d be ridiculous if people ascribed politics to my clothes. I make beautiful clothes and people want to wear them. I wish this craziness would just pass.”

Other designers have had overt activist bents to their collections this week, whether through logo tees (Jeremy Scott’s PR team wore shirts printed with the numbers of congressmen you can call), a focus on women’s rights (Rachel Comey’s show had a militant march theme), or political song choices (Chromat closed its show with a song that repeated the lyrics “Fuck Donald Trump” on loop). But Roland insists that designers can remain neutral: “I stay out of politics. I’m a fashion designer, number one.”

But even with the CFDA, the institution that oversees Fashion Week and urged attendees and participants to wear a pink Planned Parenthood button in solidarity with progressive causes, it’s becoming increasingly harder for designers to stay out of the crossfire. Roland's clothes are not inherently political, but it's easy to draw the connection between the four-figure gala-friendly gowns Roland is known for and Trump's administration, including the First Lady (especially when the soundtrack to the collection included a Michelle Gurevich song that repeated the phrase "Russian Romance").

Whether fairly or unfairly, some have been able to set their politics aside when engaging with fashion. "I met Pamella Roland before her sister-in-law ran for office, and I respect her for being an amazing designer who's done it on her own terms," Vanessa Williams told Refinery29 at the show. Williams tweeted enthusiastically from the show; pre-NYFW, her recent tweets have been about Coretta Scott King (ostensibly supporting Elizabeth Warren's disapproval of Attorney General Jeff Sessions this week), and also about about The Women's March, the largest anti-Trump demonstration to date.

"Supporting designers can be political, but only if that’s their agenda," said Williams.
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