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Since November, a lot of clothing designers have been grappling with the question of how best to use their financial resources and visibility to protest Donald Trump’s administration. Kaelen Haworth, of the New York-based brand Kaelen, decided to donate every dollar her label made for a week after the election to organizations like Black Lives Matter and Greenpeace. Public School sold “Make America New York” hats and sent the proceeds to the ACLU.
The Rational Dress Society, which is as much an activist group as it is a clothing line, is doing things a little differently. It’s beginning the long process of gathering unwanted Ivanka Trump brand apparel, sending it off to be recycled into post-consumer fiber, weaving it into new fabric, and sewing that into jumpsuits. The profits will go to organizations that support fair labor practices.
The message it’s sending is self-evident: dismantle, remake, use for good.
Abigail Glaum-Lathbury and Maura Brewer, a clothing designer and a video artist who also work as teachers, started the Rational Dress Society as an alternative to fast fashion. They only make one style of clothing, an ungendered jumpsuit that is cut and sewn according to each customer’s body measurements. Glaum-Lathbury and Brewer ask that each customer then gets rid of the rest of their wardrobe and stops buying new clothing altogether. It’s a tongue-in-cheek proposition rooted in genuine concern about the fashion industry’s effect on garment workers and the environment.
After the election, Glaum-Lathbury says, “Everybody I know had a meltdown.” She and Brewer went to the Women’s March on Washington, but in its wake, she still felt like she was waiting for instructions on what to do next and how to protest further. So she started a monthly organizing meeting for artists in the Chicago area, and eventually she and Brewer came up with the Ivanka Trump recycling concept, formally known as the “Make America Rational Again” program.
While the project is well suited to the Rational Dress Society’s longstanding focus on waste reduction, Glaum-Lathbury says it also points to the hypocrisy in Donald Trump’s “Buy American” stance and the fact that his ties and Ivanka Trump’s line are made in China. The “Make America Rational Again” jumpsuits, meanwhile, will be processed, woven, and sewn in the United States.
From now through July, the Rational Dress Society is acquiring a critical mass of used Ivanka Trump clothing, via collection centers (read: volunteers with boxes) and a P.O. box that people can send their items to directly. There’s certainly a good amount of unwanted Ivanka Trump pieces floating out there: According to the clothing resale site ThredUp, the number of people selling the brand through their site rose 223 percent in 2016.
For a bit of levity, the “Make America Rational Again” jumpsuits will be dyed millennial pink with gold accents.
“It’s the line we try to take between being really silly and also deadly serious. You should be having fun while critiquing,” says Glaum-Lathbury. “Otherwise, we’d just be weeping into our cornflakes all the time, which we’re all pretty close to anyway.”