A day before the nationwide women's strike on March 8, a group of activists and politically-minded women who had all become acquainted during the Women’s March on Washington—the largest protest in American history—got together to plan their next moves going forward, including the next day's events.
Amid the strategy session, they all put aside some time to pose for the acclaimed photographer Pamela Hanson, who is known for her work celebrating women, particularly with her series Girls.
Sprawled out in a photo studio in the West Village, the women, who included everyone from Sarah Sophie Flicker to organizers like Shi Shi Rose and Bob Bland, took turns in front of Hanson's camera to speak up for all the causes, not just women's rights, they are passionate about.
“It was just constant stream of all of these different women filing in,” Hanson recalled.
The resulting video, which features a total of 23 women, including a spread of doctors, lawyers, and Planned Parenthood employees, was made for the cashmere sweater brand Lingua Franca, which recently added a line of politically-tinged so-called “resistance sweaters” to its usual threads featuring lyrics from ‘90s hip hop. Like others in fashion, the label has learned that shoppers these days are interested in clothes that allow them to wear their politics on their sleeves.
In other words, the shoot was exactly what Hanson and Lingua Franca’s Rachelle Hruska MacPherson had first dreamed of months ago, when MacPherson asked Hanson if she’d help capture a variety of women—no restrictions, except that they were not to be professional models—for her latest look book. In the face of the Trump administration, though, that plan to showcase support for women’s rights and diversity adopted a whole new level of urgency.
“The idea was germinating before the election, but of course after that, everything just snowballed,” Hanson said.
Hanson was on assignment in South Africa when the Women’s March on Washington rolled around, but after heading down to the capital, MacPherson was more determined than ever, which is how she ended up joining the spread of activists in New York a few days before the strike at Flicker's apartment. One by one, she approached them and asked if they’d be willing to talk passion and activism for her and Hanson, and use her sweaters as a billboard for their political messages.
Among them were “Power to the people” for Flicker; “I am an immigrant” for the organizer Paola Mendoza; “Educate girls, change the world” for the Planned Parenthood physician Dr. Stacey De-Lin; “Resist” for the CNN commentator Sally Kohn; “Stand with Gavin” for the model and producer Geena Rocero, referencing her support for trans teens; and “Nevertheless she persisted” for Rachel Sklar, the journalist and entrepreneur, and Bland, the march organizer who brought along her newborn baby, one of three infants on set that day.
“The March happened, but what they spoke about a lot was what they could do now, what we’re going to do next,” Hanson said of what each activist focused on when they stepped in front of the camera. “Most of them said to just speak your mind and take action, really, which was really inspiring—it’s hard to stay quiet during these times, and the kind of silver lining is that everyone is getting up and saying something.”
For her part, MacPherson, who never intended to get political with her brand—the label has been popular with celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio for its whimsical embroidered sweaters— suddenly found herself realizing its namesake phrase, which translates to “a common language," had adopted a new meaning, and her sweaters could become a vehicle for political commentary.
As Vogue noted recently, Lingua Franca is not the only brand to have tapped into the political moment by encouraging shoppers to channel their social interests with the clothes on their back. Dior's $700 "We Should All Be Feminists" t-shirt has underlined that costly corporate-approved feminism is one consequence of the debate around women's issues that emerged out of the 2016 election.
In the case of MacPherson's line, which retails for $360 a piece, buyers get to donate proceeds of their purchase to the charity of their choice, everything from environmental organizations to the American Civil Liberties Union. With 50 percent of all sales going to non-profits, MacPherson said she's raised at least $30,000.
Meet the Women who Made History as the Organizers of the Women's March on Washington: