23-Nov, 06:55

01:50, January 19 212 0

2017-01-19 01:50:09
Unbuttoned: Détente and Defiance: Designers Sort Out Their Reactions to Trump

“I still believe in the American dream. I still believe in the idea this is the land of opportunity.”

This was Pierpaolo Piccioli, the creative director of Valentino, not quite two weeks before the swearing-in of Donald J. Trump as the 45th president of the United States. Mr. Piccioli was in New York, in the Valentino offices overlooking Bryant Park, explaining why he had decided to unveil his prefall collection in Manhattan as a full-fledged runway show, even though more and more of his fellow designers are playing down this particular season, holding presentations instead of shows and refusing to release pictures until the clothes are in stores in April.

He wanted, he said, to affirm his commitment to the myth of America and the promise commemorated just offshore on Ellis Island, and he wanted to do it in a powerful, public way.

“Fashion has to be more than clothes,” he said. “It has to say something.”

So: a show. So: references to the 1930s and Edward Steichen’s “Family of Man” (that’s what was on Mr. Piccioli’s mood board). So: a melting pot of Dust Bowl tea dresses and loden peacoats with velvet appliqués and thigh-high leather motorcycle boots, made to stomp and swan your way into an uncertain future. The message was in the medium.

Welcome to fashion in the age of Trump, a moment when a traditionally apolitical industry (don’t want to alienate your customers, after all) is increasingly finding its voice, literally and creatively.

It began just after the election, with the debate over who would agree to dress Melania Trump (a somewhat specious issue, since the first lady is free to buy whatever brand she wants); continued at the dawn of the new year when Stefano Gabbana proudly announced, via Instagram, Dolce & Gabbana’s authorship of the dress Ms. Trump wore to the Mar-a-Lago New Year’s Eve party, generating applause and attacks in equal measure; and is picking up steam in the run-up to the inauguration.

Just consider the various developments thus far.

In December, Anna Wintour, the artistic director of Condé Nast, editor of American Vogue and noted Hillary Clinton booster, paid a visit to Trump Tower, suggesting that whatever her personal feelings, she was going to put them aside and attempt to engage in some bridge building with the president-elect (and, presumably, feature the new first lady, or perhaps the president’s eldest daughter, Ivanka, in her magazine, as she has featured first ladies since Mrs. Clinton).

Come the new year, Bernard Arnault, the chairman of LVMH, the world’s largest luxury conglomerate (which happens to own Marc Jacobs the brand, whose designer, Marc Jacobs the man, has gone on the record about his noninterest in dressing Ms. Trump), became the first luxury fashion mogul to set foot in the tower’s penthouse postelection. Where, apparently, he and Mr. Trump discussed expanding LVMH factories in the United States.

And then rumor spread that Ralph Lauren, latterly the couturier of choice for Mrs. Clinton, the presumed presidential image-maker-to-be, and the former dresser of first ladies from Betty Ford to Michelle Obama, was working with Ms. Trump on her inaugural wardrobe. (She wore a Ralph Lauren white jumpsuit on election night.) If so, that would make three role models from various sides of the industry modeling an attempted détente with Mr. Trump.

Not everyone, though, is ready to get on board. At the Golden Globe Awards, Tom Ford, who had earlier said he had declined to dress Ms. Trump, declared that a first lady should wear the kind of “accessible” clothes he does not make. On Wednesday, Mr. Trump responded, in an interview with “Fox & Friends”: “I’m not a fan of Tom Ford, never have been.”

In the not-fans-of-Trump category, a number of other designers, mostly of the small, independent kind, are planning to add their voices to the Women’s March on Washington, including Rachel Comey, Mara Hoffman, Brooke Neidich (of the responsible-jewelry line Sidney Garber), Samantha and Matt Orley of Orley, and Aurora James, the creative director of Brother Vellies, the made-in-Africa footwear label that was a winner of the 2015 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund award.

Ms. Comey is also making outfits for 50 marchers from the group Downtown for Democracy, with the slogan “Si Vales Valeo” (Latin for “If I am strong, you are strong”).

“It’s a question of values,” said Donna Carpenter, the chief executive of Burton Snowboards, the action lifestyle brand, explaining her attendance.

“We’ve always been very sensitive about the idea of mixing politics and business, but we have had a woman’s leadership initiative for the last 13 years, and 40 percent of our leadership is female, so this seemed like a statement of what the company is about,” Ms. Carpenter said. As to whether she was concerned about the president-elect’s tendency to call out those who publicly oppose him on Twitter, and the impact it could have on her company, Ms. Carpenter said: “Luckily we’re a private company, so he can’t hurt our stock price. Besides, in our world, it’s probably a badge of honor.”

Meanwhile, between outreach and outrage, there has emerged a third way: channeling all the controversy and emotion into products that, in the end, touch the consumer most. This is what Mr. Piccioli meant when he was talking about his prefall collection, and he was far from the only major brand thinking along these lines.

Stella McCartney, for example, also made a trans-Atlantic trek, from London to the Cotton Club in Harlem, to show her prefall, a celebration of denim and argyle and fringe in the slouchy, comfort cool that culminated in a performance by Alicia Keys, who sang “Empire State of Mind.”

“The Cotton Club is such a historical venue, and when you look at the images of the club from the past, as a designer they are so inspiring,” Ms. McCartney said, with a nod to the importance of celebrating diversity. At Givenchy, Riccardo Tisci offered up, among the mandala print pantsuits and peekaboo flapper gowns, an haute reference to American collegiate style in the form of, among other things, a mink baseball shirt.

And all the way back in December, after pantsuits first proved their continued resurgence at Altuzarra, Carolina Herrera and Victoria Beckham, Coach, designed by the Englishman Stuart Vevers, held a blowout show on a pier, conceived as a road trip of sorts through the heart of the United States along Route 66, complete with neon signs, a motel and the Young People’s Chorus of New York City singing — yes, also — “Empire State of Mind.”

Sense a trend here?

It was a rebel yell of a mash-up of ice cream sundae intarsia sweaters and T. Rex prints; leather biker jackets and satin baseball jackets; little floral dresses and NASA logos; and a tribute to the energy that comes from cross-border fertilization. Ofttimes, in extremis, inspiration can be found.

Whatever brand Ms. Trump ends up wearing on Friday, and whatever the reaction, it’s going to be a fertile four years for fashion.