Citrus fruit, root vegetables, loaves of bread, and huge blooming flowers were piled high on the tables that lined Collina Strada's runway, at the edge of a park on the east side of Manhattan. It was about to be golden hour, and on the other side of the park's fence, people gathered to peer at the huge crowd of fashion people assembled in rows. A dog barked incessantly; its owner presumably making it stay to see what was about to unfold.
Collina Strada is Hillary Taymour's label, and Taymour is committed to infusing activism into her line. Thanks to the veritable farmer's market she assembled on the runway, it was immediately clear that her spring/summer collection would be addressing climate change—a fitting theme in the middle of an event that celebrates one of the most polluting industries in the world. And as the urgency of the situation becomes more and more apparent, institutions like New York Fashion Week can feel tacky in their worship of excess. But this was not one of those moments.
The show was opened by musician Zsela, who walked out in pastel floral pants and a matching crop top, slowly, hauntingly singing, "Are you listening? Listening? Listening? When I call?" She sounded like Mother Earth herself.
The models began to appear, clothed whimsically in floral velvet, rhinestone bras, tie-dyed gowns, and bedazzled hoodies; models of all ages, races, genders, and shapes. Several had children with them, one held a dog; others danced, or picked at the piles of fruit, or dragged carts filled with fabric behind them. And another model had the words "pick up your shit" scrawled across her butt cheek.
Taymour's work, by design, doesn't exclude anyone. Hers is the rare fashion brand that has considered diversity from the get-go, folding it into its DNA so that it won't ever be neglected. And likewise, the effects of climate change are coming for all of us equally. Just like everyone deserves access to fashion, everyone should take responsibility for making it more sustainable. For Taymour's part, the majority of the clothes were made from repurposed materials. In fact the title of the collection was "THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR HELPING ME," a call to action as much as it was an assumption that everyone would be compelled to get on board with the mission. How could they not?
At one point while the models walked, a woman wearing nothing but her underwear ran down the runway, her body covered in writing—the climate change metaphor temporarily becoming literal, through protest.
But the clothes themselves remained lighthearted—pink silk dresses, hair bows, floral appliques—even as Zsela continued to sing a song heavy with climate change symbolism. Eventually she passed the microphone to another musician, Tei-Shi, who took over with a decidedly more upbeat tune. Meanwhile, the dog was still barking. All the elements combined created a tension, one that felt familiar in the context of fashion week: even in a global crisis, creativity endures. And it's okay to enjoy it — maybe even necessary for survival. Because why else fight to save the planet, if we're not also celebrating the life it enables?
At the end of her show, Taymour sprinted down the runway. She grabbed the mic and breathlessly told her guests to take the fruit: A reminder to find joy in fashion while we seek to improve its production. To touch and taste the earth while we try to stop it from burning.