At first glance, the only thing that seemed to have set apart Jeremy Scott's latest collection from his previous efforts is that it didn't immediately seem to have a unifying point of the reference. Last year, the playful pontificator on all things mass American culture riffed the grit of New York City of yore. Past collections have ruminated on everything from Flinstones chic to '80s soap opera.
It seemed at first that his latest influences, shown on Friday night during New York Fashion Week, were all over the map. There were bits of Christian iconography splashed across shiny dresses. Elvis's influence was apparent both on the soundtrack and in several looks (including the white bedazzled leather jumpsuit Gigi Hadid wore near the end). Cartoon images of Michael Jackson and Marie Antoinette were juxtaposed against Monroe-worthy bombshell dresses. Drawings of pigs in lipstick and the familiar bright red "As Seen On TV" logo were thrown into the mix. What could any of this have to do with the rest of it?
As it turns out, there was a unifying message. It was politics.
But what could allusions to Americans' obsession with celebrity and iconography have to do with politics at the moment?
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“I was thinking about our culture and how we’re obsessed with celebrities, and how we put Elvis and Jesus and Marilyn Monroe and Michael Jackson on the same level," said Scott during his after party at the Edition hotel. "That’s why we have a Celebrity-in-Chief, not a president."
"We're in this mess we’re in by not seeing the difference between deities and politicians and entertainers," he continued.
"This" mess seems to be on Scott's mind quite a bit lately. For his other gig as creative director of Moschino, he presented a collection informed by rebellion chic in Milan last month.
"It’s hard to ignore, it’s really what we’re living right now. It’s so much. There’s no escaping it," he said. "There’s no way, as fashion mirrors politics mirrors the culture, that it can’t seep in. That doesn’t mean we can’t still have fun and that there can’t be frivolity. At the same time, there’s going to be heavy messages."
It was a clever bit of showmanship on behalf of one of fashion's most savvy interpreters of pop culture. It wasn't that most of the pieces screamed politics with a capital P—perhaps wearing one of the items with the "Sex is Cute" slogan around socially conservative family members would be radically subversive?—but taken together as a collection it carried a subtle if unmistakable transgressive message.
While some designers may say it's nearly impossible to design directly in relation to politics, Scott disagrees.
"I have a platform. I have a voice, and as an artist, it processes through me," he said. "I have no choice. I’m like a filter and there’s no way I can’t release that into the world."
"I also can’t pass up the opportunity to have my voice inspiring even one person to call their congressperson," he said.
At that point, in the middle of the Edition's lobby, he tugged up the sweatshirt of his own design he was wearing to reveal a t-shirt of his own design printed with the names and phone numbers of several members of congress.
"Call them and say, 'Hey, this is not okay. I'm an American citizen, and I object to this,'" he said.
Scott's own outfit, much like his collection, had its own hidden political message.
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