Alessandro Trincone's fall 2019 show had been in the works for months before the Italian fashion designer unveiled his latest gender-challenging creations in New York on Thursday. But barely a week ago, actor Jussie Smollett survived a premeditated, racist and homophobic attack. Weeks before that, homophobic epithets from comedian Kevin Hart that legitimized violence against the LGTBQ+ community resurfaced on Twitter.
Both, in 2019, are striking reminders that being gay while Black is still punishable by noose and bleach or the closed fists of your own father.
At least, that's all I could think of as I watched male models, of every race and creed, practically tiptoeing down Trincone's runway draped in just about every (conventionally) feminine motif: glitter, silk, bows, satin, dresses, in soft hues of baby blue and powder pink. Trincone, who gained fame after designing the dress rapper Young Thug wore on his controversial Jeffery mixtape cover, built upon what he's shown in previous seasons, scrambling gender to a pulp. And this season, he worked with two evocative yet opposing materials: feathers and (faux, eco-friendly) fur.
"The use of feathers is no coincidence," read Trincone's show notes. "They represent freedom, hope, and purity. And they're associated with the air, the sky, and the ethereal, symbolizing dreams and inspiration." In Native American traditions, feathers were given to warriors as a token of distinction and greatness — but also, bravery and strength. Trincone noted that his use of fur represented the sheltering of one’s soul from judgement. "In the same way, the collection is a hymn to spiritual ennoblement and superior intelligence since art, like love, lifts the human spirit."
But Trincone's latest show wasn't just uplifting. It was a resistance — a sweeping rejection— to toxic and fragile masculinity. More than just queer or genderless, it imbued the clothes with what we're supposed to get out of them: feeling. Trincone's designs inspire sadness, thrill, rage, warmth, ardor and more. To see Black men draped in lilac plumes, white tulle, in pale green dresses with trains following behind them also made me think about acceptance and pride — something many men have too little and too much of, respectively.
Of course, clothes can't be the answer to America's systemic racism or homophobia. But Alessandro Trincone's fall 2019 collection was proof that fashion isn't always out of touch with reality — that, actually, it can be more relevant than ever.