At his fall 1998 runway show, when Isaac Mizrahi sent out a model in a red satin ballgown and matching baby Bjorn carrier (with baby inside), it felt like a political statement about motherhood, and how it should be part of a fashionable life.
That feeling came to mind again Friday watching the tantalizing and timely Collina Strada show, where Hillary Taymour flexed her own power of inclusivity by showing a pregnant model, a mom with a baby in her arms, athletes, curvy women, differently abled women, and other kick-ass individuals.
At least this time it was a female designer doing it.
“I feel very passionate about the ‘Women Dressing Women’ exhibition that we’re so lucky to be in,” Taymour said of the Costume Institute show now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. “I really just want to put my energy there this season, especially with the wars. If women were in charge, none of this would be happening.”
When it came to clothes, the overarching theme was Collina Strada hitting the gym, which culminated in all kinds of fun stuff (the label is fun, after all, and that’s at a premium in fashion). Hand painted, padded rubber “muscle shirts,” shirred “muscle” puff sleeve minidresses, and padded sweatshirts with “Collina Gym” logos were standouts (and clever shortcuts to power dressing). Some models marched down the runway flexing their arms, and others pumped butternut squash dumbbells.
Taymour encouraged the flexing. “I feel like they’re under appreciated in beauty,” she said of the kind of powerful arms famously flaunted by former First Lady Michelle Obama. “Do you know how much harder a woman has to work to get that body than a man? It’s very much that like metaphor for life,” she said, sounding a bit like a “Barbie” monologue.
The power concept was layered onto the brand’s core, feel-good animal–as in actual animals–prints; dip-dyed velvet or tartan separates; padded coats; cargo pants, and tees, all with an artsy grungy appeal. A new Ugg collaboration included short boots (entirely vegan for the first time in the brand’s history, thanks to Taymour’s dedication to animal rights) rendered in painterly flora and fauna patterns.
“With the recession, everyone’s trying to go quiet and safe. That’s not for me. And why would I try to be anything that I’m not? ” she said, conceding a couple of solid color velvet suits.
Taymour is one of the most original voices of her generation in American fashion, and she’s a woman. There’s hope in that, even if there are still limitations. “We need more leaders in the feminine realm because they’re still not letting us make a difference. They’re telling us to shut up and get in the corner,” she said. At least there are those who are still up for the fight.