This Designer's Unlikely Casting Process Was A Response To The Immigration Ban

Photo: Courtesy of Collina Strada.
Hillary Taymour, the designer behind Collina Strada, took a meaningful approach to casting this season. She set out to show her fall 2017 collection earlier this week exclusively on models from the seven countries impacted by President Trump's immigration ban.( It didn't quite go according to plan, but more on that later.)

The collection itself was dubbed "Terraform Mars," and the invitation included a Stephen Hawking quote; Taymour was dabbling with the notion of life on Mars. The androgynous collection featured monochromatic boxy cuts balanced out with ruffled detailing, done in a palette of creams, blues, and browns, with shearling thigh-high boots and clogs created in tandem with No. 6 (also on the accessories front: lens-free, gilded face jewelry by Gabriela Artigas.

Ahead, Taymour fills us in on her unconventional casting process this season.
Why did you decide to make a statement with your casting for your fall '17 presentation?
"As a second-generation Middle Eastern immigrant woman who has had two abortions, and is known to dates both genders, the Trump administration has opened my eyes to take action. I first tried to cast models from Trump-banned countries, which we succeeded in by casting one model from Sudan and one from Somalia. It was surprisingly difficult.

"However, from there we started selecting a wide range of models with different ethnic backgrounds, beliefs, ideologies that are fearful of the consequences during this presidential term. We wanted to cast humans who are fearful of what is next: homosexual models; pro-abortion models; a model in need of healthcare with a longterm illness."

How long has this casting been in the works?
"We've been pre-casting on and off for a month. Then we cast for about five to seven days before the shows. We were still scrambling the day of."
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Photo: Courtesy of Collina Strada.
Photo: Courtesy of Collina Strada.
How did you find models from countries impacted by the immigration ban?
"I approached it through Instagram, a ton of modeling agencies, the U.N., and word of mouth. It's been an uphill battle, but we have found some models with some powerful stories. Everyone is a professional model except for two."

Are your fall '17 designs intended to make any sort of political or cultural statement?
"With this collection, my thoughts led to what is next for us: Is Mars really an option we can logically explore? If we are to move onward, and outward, what will this new colony look like? What does it mean to create a new single human race, and a new human gender? This collection is focused on our ever-diversifying society, and on what type of humans we are cultivating to start the next generation that will terraform Mars.

There's a genderless bathroom symbol incorporated in the collection, and embroidered shirts that read, 'Terraform Mars.' I like to create a world around each collection with our presentations. This season was based on a quote by Stephen Hawking that really made me stop and think: 'I don’t think we will survive another 1,000 years without escaping beyond our fragile planet.'

"As the earth is continually drained of its resources to feed our over-consumptive habits and lifestyles, the reality of a non-life supporting world sets in. It is possible that in our lifetime, we will see this ecosystem fail. Our energy resources will dry up, and our drinking water will become contaminated. We will face problems beyond race, nationality, and gender; it forcs us to consider the future of the human species.
Photo: Courtesy of Collina Strada.
Do you anticipate other designers using their show slots as political platforms this season?
"I think we'll see more and more designers taking a political stance. We saw this already during Men’s Fashion Week with Demna’s ode to Bernie Saunder’s campaign and By Robert James’s protest themed presentation. We're in a crucial state of change right now, and the more we can impact others to take action, the more our voices will be heard. I don't want to call having a political statement trendy, but I would say it should be trending."

How do you hope the fashion community gets vocal throughout the Trump administration?
"I really hope more and more designers can use their power for good. I think fashion is looked at by kids out there in high regards, and as [direction for] what is cool. If we can get millennials and Generation Z to think that speaking up about change is 'cool,' maybe this planet has some hope; maybe we won't need to terraform Mars in the next 1,000 years. Right now is not the time to be silent."
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