Is the fashion world becoming more political?
From designers saying they will or will not be willing to dress Melania Trump, to boycotts of Ivanka Trump's products, to an ideological embrace or rejection of New Balance sneakers, the worlds of politics and fashion seem more and more often to be on a collision course.
Fashion isn’t just a way to express oneself artistically anymore – somehow, unexpectedly, it’s become a central part of the political sphere following the 2016 election.
From Hillary Clinton’s iconic pantsuits, to Melania and Ivanka Trump's influence and connections to the fashion world, voters have had plenty of looks to emulate, as well as businesses they could choose to boycott or support, depending on their political preference. While some companies, such as outdoor wear designer Patagonia or shoe company Toms, have made names for themselves as socially conscious brands intent on fighting climate change or poverty, the connections between specific designers, retailers, and a political candidate’s family is a newer phenomenon ushered in by President-elect Donald Trump’s move from a businessman to the White House.
In response to his unexpected and divisive victory, some are moving away from the family and its brands in order to take a stance against the new administration.
“As one who celebrates and strives for diversity, individual freedom, and respect for all lifestyles, I will not participate in dressing or associating in any way with the next First Lady,” Sophie Theallet, a designer who dressed First Lady Michelle Obama, wrote in an open letter on Thursday. “The rhetoric of racism, sexism, and xenophobia unleashed by her husband’s presidential campaign are incompatible with the shared values we live by.”
For some women, Mr. Trump’s degrading comments have struck a nerve, leading them to boycott companies with ties to the president-elect and his family.
“The tipping point was when Ivanka Trump returned to the campaign trail,” Shannon Coulter, who launched a boycott campaign against the Trump family dubbed “#grabyourwallet,” told The Washington Post. “Professional women like myself had been willing to cut her a lot of slack. Regardless of political affiliation, she’s his daughter.”
But once Ivanka Trump continued to champion her father's claims that he would help women as president, in the face of the release of a lewd tape in which he discussed his sexual conduct with women, Ms. Coulter said she could no longer support Trump-related brands, or the stores that sold them. She created a list of retailers that carried the brands and has gained a group of supporters who have joined her in the boycott.
But it’s not just the Trump family’s own brands that have been caught up in the fashion crossfire. After a New Balance spokesperson praised Trump’s victory, members of the alt-right began to vocally support the company, embracing the sneakers as a way to show support for white supremacy. As that movement went viral, another emerged in contrast, with many showing opposition to the real estate mogul’s policies and rhetoric by sending their New Balance sneakers to the trash and documenting the process on social media.
Others, such as Tommy Hilfiger, don’t think fashion and politics should mix.
“I think Melania is a very beautiful woman and I think any designer should be proud to dress her,” Mr. Hilfiger said told fashion site Women's Wear Daily. “Ivanka is equally as beautiful and smart, although she wears her own clothes. I don’t think people should become political about it. Everyone was very happy to dress Michelle [Obama] as well. I think they look great in the clothes. You’re not gonna get much more beautiful than Ivanka or Melania.”