At long last, politics is finding its place in the fashion world, and vice versa. It makes the most sense, too, that the conversation picks up in New York, the first stop on the four-city tour that is Fashion Month. But for designer Chris Leba of R13, the focus has shifted from spring 2018 and his thinly veiled critique on what Trump supporters might look like, to his fall 2018 collection, a wakeup call to those of us who forget there's a great big world out there.
In a way that maybe Leba and only a handful of other designers can, the clothes were made to survive on their own. What we mean by that is, in a type of nervy hitchhiker's state of mind, they were self-sufficient, like puffer coats that could double as sleeping bags and sweaters that were as big as blankets. And with the help of contrasting imagery of Utah protests and wildlife printed on jumpsuits and dresses, they spoke for themselves. Spurts of camouflage added to what we're considering the militant trend rampant throughout men's fashion week, instead of what could be interpreted to be hunting gear.
But one print in particular stood out: Utah's largest predators, black bears. There were eagles and elk, too, but it was a more subtle nod to environmentalism — and a reminder that while climate change may be of current debate, our stateside landscape is suffering too. To round out his first year in office, President Donald Trump vowed to shrink the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase monuments, by 85%. The protests to protect them, images of that were prolific throughout R13's fall 2018 collection, have only gotten worse, with Utah's state capital being vandalized in the name of Bear Ears just yesterday, on the day of Leba's show.
But Leba's latest offering wasn't as serious as it sounds, and there were some floral print dresses and coordinating bombers in there as well. Those more commercial pieces rounded out his vision more optimistically than some of the words that were printed across the clothes, like resist. The collection may not have contained any nods to female empowerment, immigration, or Trumpian motifs, but set to the strums of Gustavo Santaollal, it was pretty impactful. And we're not just saying that.