As most designers are concluding showing their new collections at New York Fashion Week, Tanya Taylor used her Thursday time slot on the NYFW: The Shows calendar to air a video of her own — one that has nothing to do with fashion. Titled “Things That Take Longer Than Registering to Vote,” the short film shows, as the name suggests, just how quick it is to register to vote. In it, celebrities from Hillary Clinton and Rosario Dawson to Mindy Kaling, Brother Vellies’ Aurora James, Iskra Lawrence, and more perform everyday activities that take longer than two minutes (the time it takes to register to vote with the Action Button on Tanya Taylor’s website).
“It’s important to me to use the platform I have to support social issues that I believe in. We were vocal in the 2016 election supporting Hillary Clinton, and we knew we wanted to do something around the election again this year as it is critical for everyone to know how to register and vote and feel that their voice matters,” Taylor told Refinery29 ahead of the video release. Created as part of Tanya Taylor’s involvement in Fashion Our Future 2020, a multi-brand initiative founded to use fashion to mobile the youth vote and led by Studio 189 cofounder Abrima Erwiah, the video was created with the goal of encouraging communities to register to vote ahead of the general election. “In talking with Abrima, the message about getting youth excited about voting really resonated with me, because I grew up in Canada and I have seen how youth in a less divided government see their civic voice effectively contributing to change and unity.”
Inspired by the idea that it takes longer to watch a fashion show than to register to vote, the video, produced by Evan Jonigkeit, starts with an introduction from Taylor. It then zooms to self-shot snippets of celebrities doing activities of their choosing: Kaling waters her plants while Clinton plays with her dog and Dawson gets her makeup removed; James makes coffee, and Lawrence changes her five-month-old son's diaper. “The idea is that if you have time to cook, water your plants, try a new hobby — then you have the time to register to vote,” Taylor says. Longer individual videos will be posted to Tanya Taylor’s Instagram throughout the week. Other participants include Stephanie Beatriz, Stacy London, Michelle Buteau, Michelle Kwan, Sydnee Washington, Zosia Mamet, and Sasheer Zamata.
In addition to being able to use her platform for an important conversation, not showing clothes this season allowed Tanya Taylor to reset professionally. “COVID has had a challenging impact on our business, but the silver lining is that for the first time in eight years we were able to hit pause and reevaluate our brand. We have had a lot of discussions about where we want the business to go, what we want the brand to stand for and how we get there,” she says. “Creating collections is what makes me happy, it’s my passion so I could never not create, but this season it was important that we blend purpose with passion.” The brand’s Spring 2021 collection will now be revealed in January, a few weeks ahead of the collection’s retail launch, as a way to combat the out-of-season calendar that has long made little sense to the consumer.
“As we begin this new chapter of our business, we feel confident challenging the old ways of doing things by focusing on our customer and putting them at the center of our strategy. NYFW in its traditional format is confusing to our customer — we show them products that they won’t be able to buy for six months, if at all, introduced at events that they are not usually invited to,” she says. “With everything going on in the world, we didn’t think our customer wanted to see a SS21 collection right now, and creating a fashion show wasn’t where the team wanted to spend our time and effort right now either. There are a lot of eyes on us during NYFW, so it felt like a great opportunity to use our time in the spotlight to encourage positive change and push our community to register to vote.”
In partnership with Fashion Our Future 2020, Taylor did create two exclusive products, a graphic tote bag and a lunchbox that you can customize with pins and stickers respectively, with proceeds benefiting FOF20 voter registration, education, and turnout initiatives, as well as the Lower East Side Girls Club. “Voting is all about using your voice and expressing yourself, so we wanted to make sure we were incorporating those values into our products by making them customizable,” she says. “I was also really inspired by the ‘I voted’ pins that are worn proudly on Election Day.”
Taylor says that it’s important for the fashion industry to use their platforms to advocate for other causes. "The fashion industry holds a lot of power. The reach it has is truly extraordinary and that influence should be used to encourage positive change. There are a lot of eyes on how the fashion industry will survive the pandemic, and being able to build an independent brand aligned with my personal values and to share that with others is what this industry should be more confident in expressing,” she says. “I think it’s important that designers feel a responsibility to use their platform to speak up for what they believe in and encourage change within their communities.”