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My First, Fraught Fashion Week

A pink button pin with the Planned Parenthood logo reads “Fashion stands with Planned Parenthood”. The pin is on a green coat. Photo: Getty Images

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As someone who’s been climbing up the fashion ladder for years, this Fashion Week — my very first as an actual editor — was a really big deal. I was no one’s intern or assistant this time around. I was finally being invited to shows personally instead of having to sneak in under a boss's name for whatever shows they didn’t care about.

But despite my excitement, this first post-election Fashion Week has become something of a moral headache for me. In the same way I’ve felt it trivial to write about trendy accessories or what bathing suit to pack on your next vacation lately, watching a privileged (and largely white) audience gawk over expensive designer clothes right now seemed gross and strange. How do we do this the right way?

I was worried that no one, from the designers to my fellow editors, would pay attention to or acknowledge what was going on in the world outside of our tiny fashion bubble. (Although Racked knows better than anyone that the industry doesn’t exist in a vacuum.)

Arguably worse, I was worried that brands would be so desperate to be part of the larger conversation that they would offer up flat, disingenuous, opportunistic demonstrations, à la your favorite feminist Karl Lagerfeld. A crippling tendency that comes along with the desire to stay relevant.

Five days in, things are (thankfully) less severe than what I was bracing myself for. At the start of the week, the CFDA unveiled the Fashion Stands With Planned Parenthood campaign. In an effort to create an organic “social media movement,” pins were passed out to showgoers and designers alike, along with an informational handout on how to get involved and support the organization. Similarly, cult-favorite label Altuzarra auctioned off two seats to its runway show to raise money for the women’s health organization.

Some brands emblazoned their clothing with of-the-moment messages, though most only wanted to dip their toes into the conversation with neutral, politically adjacent slogans; Creatures of Comfort, for example, debuted a blue T-shirt with the phrase “We Are All Human Beings” front and center. Others took an even more subtle approach, using soundtracks to nod to the times. Milly played “Fight the Power” by Public Enemy and “Human” by Sevdaliza. The soundtrack over at Cushnie et Ochs had “The future is female” lyrics, while another at the Chromat show repeated “F*ck Donald Trump.”

It’s hard to be moved or comforted by these few small acts of solidarity and empathy when you consider the hundreds of opportunities designers have had (and not taken) throughout the week to shine light on the things that really matter right now.

I feel guilty for Instagramming models in latex skirts or for enjoying myself at an afterparty when I remember everything else going on. Like how Elizabeth Warren was silenced in the Senate while reading a letter written by Coretta Scott King, opposing the nomination of Jeff Sessions. Or that Jeff Sessions was actually confirmed. It’s been hard for me to stop feeling as though I’m not always paying attention, not always angry, that I’m doing something wrong.

I’ve had to remind myself on a daily basis that going to fashion shows (and yeah, writing about what bathing suit to wear on your next vacation) is my job. It doesn’t change policy or promote any sort of national healing, but I do love it. And I know I'm lucky to be able say that. My job is one of the only things that has offered me even just a few hours of escape from this uncertain reality we’ve found ourselves in, and I’ll take that escape wherever I can get it.