A Brief, Visual History of Politics on the Runway, From Vivienne Westwood to Balenciaga

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Fashion week isn’t all floaty gowns and Kardashian sightings, or for that matter smart suits and puffer jackets. As evidenced at the ongoing men’s collections–where Versace, Balenciaga, and Moschino all showed their own sartorial takes on the current political climate–sometimes the runway doubles as a platform for the designer’s feelings towards the White House and beyond. Here, a look back at some of the most recent, memorable catwalk protests as the fashion world gears up for this weekend’s inauguration–and the upcoming, sure to be Trump-charged fashion month.

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Circa 2004, Imitation of Christ, the cool-kid beloved label helmed by Tara Subkoff, opened its Spring 2005 show with men in military garb storming the American flag adorned runway as footage from the Iraq war played in the background. For good measure, a George W. Bush lookalike sat front row, as well.

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Not one to shy away from controversy, Vivienne Westwood stepped out for her Spring 2013 finale bow alongside a giant manner reading “Climate Revolution,” intended to raise awareness for Cool Earth, a charity that works to stop rainforest destruction.

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Karl Lagerfeld took it to the streets – or, rather, makeshift streets constructed within the Grand Palais – for Chanel’s Spring 2015 which featured a grand finale riot promoting female equality, lead by Cara Delevingne.


Vivienne Westwood was back at it again in 2015, using her Spring 2016 runway to protest, among other things, mass consumerism and fossil fuel dependence.


To kick off New York Fashion Week in September, Vogue’s Anna Wintour and Huma Abedin hosted a fundraiser to support the Hillary Victory Fund. Along with a full-fledged runway show, the event included a performance from Demi Lovato.

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R13 designer Chris Leba was not the first designer to speak out against his distaste for Donald Trump, but his Spring 2017 showing was easily the least nuanced.

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Pyer Moss’ Kerby Jean-Raymond went for tongue-in-cheek rebellion with his Spring 2017 collection, sending out updated takes on the business suit – some paired with pointed graphic t-shirts – and citing it as a “collaboration” between Bernie Madoff and Trump in the show notes.

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Humberto Leon and Carol Lim of Opening Ceremony took a humorous approach to politics for their spring collection, hosting a beauty pageant of sorts that featured famous faces Rashida Jones, Aubrey Plaza and noted #woke teen Rowan Blanchard, among others, giving their takes on pressing cultural issues.

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Demna Gvasalia gave his apparent take on the state of American politics by creating a Balenciaga logo that bears a striking resemblance to that of Bernie Sanders’ campaign for the house’s menswear collection.

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Donatella Versace eschewed her typical flash in favor of something a bit more subdued – dark hues, overcoats, et al. – as a nod to the current “hard times” of the world.

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Consider Jeremy Scott ready for battle. The Moschino designer opted to fight back with his menswear collection heavy on military-inspired pieces.