Over the past few months, we've seen clothing become a more prominent vehicle for political expression — be it pantsuits as a nod to Hillary Clinton, pussy hats as a symbol for women's rights, or pink Planned Parenthood scarves worn as a form of defiance at President Donald Trump's Inauguration. The fashion industry, however, has been less consistent in how in engages with political discourse under a new administration (and one it was not really prepared for or expecting). Last season at New York Fashion Week, designers, editors, and showgoers were quite open with their endorsements pre-election; the preparations for this season's showings seem to less explicitly politically-charged, at least based on what we know thus far. But many of President Trump's policies could have a direct effect on those who work in fashion, from his views on trade and the immigration ban to his affronts on LGBTQ rights and women's access to healthcare. Even if these matters don't end up being addressed explicitly on runways (though we certainly hope they do), politics will likely be weighing heavily on Fashion Week attendees. This season, it may be reflected in what they wear: The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) is launching Fashion Stands with Planned Parenthood, a new initiative meant to raise awareness about the important work the nonprofit does and the services it offers.
The organization is doing so with a simple pink pin, which will be handed out to its members as well as to showgoers during New York Fashion Week. The hope is that the added attention paid to fashion industry folks this time of year will be a means of highlighting Planned Parenthood's mission. "Fashion is a powerful platform and Fashion Week has a global reach," Steven Kolb, president of the CFDA, told Refinery29. "It's a great platform to show our support for Planned Parenthood." The CFDA has a long history of social and political engagement, Kolb noted, from its Fashion Targets Breast Cancer campaign to its work with HIV/AIDS organizations and disaster relief, but the partnership with Planned Parenthood felt all the more pressing this season because the org is in danger of being defunded. "[It's] an important organization that provides a full range of health care services," Kolb said. "We wanted to stand with Planned Parenthood in support." The pins won't be available for sale, so there technically aren't any proceeds to be donated to Planned Parenthood from the initiative. However, Kolb explained that "the CFDA Foundation has made millions of dollars of grants and will continue to do so," and that the purpose of this initiative is more about visibility for the cause, not fundraising. The CFDA's official statement on this initiative was much more direct about its intent. "Extreme politicians are trying to defund and shut down Planned Parenthood, but this is not what Americans want," per the release. "If these politicians succeed, it will be a national health disaster and devastate care. Millions of people — nearly half of whom are people of color, and many people who live in rural areas — would lose the care they rely on each year. Without Planned Parenthood many patients would have nowhere else to go for lifesaving and life empowering care."
Kolb explained that the subject of political engagement has come up among members of the CFDA. "Our discussions have been around civic responsibility and business," he said. "Our members are concerned about immigration, equal rights, and diversity. They're also concerned about trade issues." The latter is one of the issues that Kolb believes will be most pressing for the fashion industry in the Trump administration, as well as "immigration, economy, human rights." Despite the outcome of the 2016 presidential election (which the industry overwhelmingly favored for Clinton), he maintained that "designers are informed on issues and expressive in their concerns" at all levels of government. To wit: Een before the pins were sent out, over 40 designers committed to participating in Fashion Stands with Planned Parenthood. Expect to see Diane von Furstenberg, Tracy Reese, Carolina Herrera, Jonathan Simkhai, Prabal Gurung, Tory Burch, Zac Posen, Maxwell Osbourne and Dao-Yi Chow of Public School, Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough of Proenza Schouler, among many, many others wearing pink pins at their respective shows. Kolb affirmed that the CFDA is committed to civic efforts in 2017, with Fashion Stands with Planned Parenthood being the first initiative of the year. And while New York Fashion Week might not seem the most apt venue for political discourse (fashion hasn't always been the most adept at addressing politics in the past), Kolb explained that, because fashion is "a reflection of the times," it can be a powerful tool for this type of engagement. "Fashion is an expression of emotion and many designers are influenced by the world around them," he noted. "It does not exist is a vacuum." It's true that New York Fashion Week and all the imagery that comes out of it attracts a vast, global audience. Let's hope those who wield all that influence use their platform to not just shout-out the causes they believe in, but actually make tangible change. All eyes are on you, New York. (And, hey, don't forget: Planned Parenthood does, indeed, have its own merch.)