For fashion designers, it's resistance on the runway

Model Aqua Parios poses backstage for the Public School collection during New York Fashion Week: The Shows at Milk Gallery on February 12, 2017 in New York City.

Story highlights

  • "It's the right thing to do," Gorung said
  • Gone are the days of fashion and politics being mutually exclusive, Gurung said

(CNN)Ever thought that the country should "Make America New York"? Probably neither did President Donald Trump when he first donned his now-famous slogan laden red cap.

But two New York designers were inspired enough from his "Make America Great Again" mantra that they sent men and women down the runway in New York with a ripped version of the campaign hat.
A model walks the runway in Public School collection during New York Fashion Week: The Shows at Milk Gallery on February 12, 2017 in New York City.
It's just one example of how the fashion industry -- never one known for shying away from political or cultural expression -- has taken to the runway to voice opinions amidst the glamour of New York Fashion Week.
    Celebrity-magnet Prabal Gurung opened his show with his usual sophisticated fare: feminine silk skirts flowed underneath deliciously oversized cable knit sweaters so big they could be blankets.
    But for his closing walk of the show, Gurung had model-of-the-moment -- Bella Hadid -- lead a charge of mannequins in shirts that read: "The Future is Female" and "I am an immigrant."
    Model Bella Hadid walks the runway for the Prabal Gurung collection during, New York Fashion Week: The Shows at Gallery 1, Skylight Clarkson Sq on February 12, 2017 in New York City.
    Every woman wore a different shirt, and the messages ("Nevertheless, she persisted") were full-frontal.
    Gone are the days of fashion and politics being mutually exclusive, Gurung told CNN in a recent phone interview.
    "We're living in this day and age and time when we are questioning, and should be questioning, what is our responsibility, our part, our action," the designer said, when asked why he designed the politically charged shirts.
    Gurung said he was inspired by the women's march in New York City last month, which he and models in his fashion show participated in.
    "It's the right thing to do. That's how we all feel. It is basic human decency. There is nothing political about it," he said.
    Model Sara Sampaio walks the runway at the Prabal Gurung collection during, New York Fashion Week: The Shows at Gallery 1, Skylight Clarkson Sq on February 12, 2017 in New York City.
    By and large, the fashion industry backed Democrat Hillary Clinton as candidate. There was even a fashion-show sponsored fundraiser in September featuring Tory Burch, Marc Jacobs and Dian von Furstenburg (among others) designed "I'm With Her" T-shirts sold on the campaign website.
    Steven Kolb, the president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, said fashion has always been politically vocal. For example, he offered, designers were outspoken advocates in the 80s for HIV/AIDS awareness. He does admit, however, the mood may be heightened now.
    "It's always been a part of our industry, but maybe it's more amplified now because of this election we just came out of," he told CNN in a recent phone interview.
    Fashion week represents the industry's most high-profile event; a biannual Super Bowl featuring an international jet set of editors, buyers, stylists and even celebrities who descend on the Big Apple for a highly publicized array of fashion shows.
    Every sashay is snapped, tweeted, filtered and posted within milliseconds.
    This year, the fashion designer council harnessed the power of social media to raise money for Planned Parenthood, a nonprofit women's health organization providing an array of reproductive health services. About 3% of those services are abortions, according to the group, making it a favorite target of conservative politicians.
    Easily the most organized and influential fashion organization in the country, the Council of Fashion Designers of America designed a bright pink pin that says: "Fashion stands with Planned Parenthood." For every social media post with the pin and hashtag #IStandwithPP, a donation will be made to the organization, said Kolb.
    Even Vogue editor extraordinaire Anna Wintour was spotted wearing one pinned conspicuously to her scarf at a show.
    But it was the duo designers behind Public School that reimagined Trump's iconic red campaign hat with white lettering. A brand with major street cred, there was a lopped-off printed hoodie with Michael Jordan's visage on the front and the words "We Need Leaders" printed on the back.
    A model walks the runway in Public School collection during New York Fashion Week: The Shows at Milk Gallery on February 12, 2017 in New York City.
    "This Land is Our Land," a Bernie Sanders favorite song used during his rallies on the campaign trail, provided the musical backdrop for the strutting.
    There is always the consideration that such a strong message could be bad for business, but Gurung says that so far, he has experienced no commercial backlash.
    "On the contrary, I've gotten the best reaction from my retail partners like Bergdorfs, Saks, Neiman, Nordstrom, stores and clients. Everyone was excited. It was truly about calling the world together," he said.
    Kolb similarly said he didn't think his political expression would be bad for business.
    "Mostly what I see is not an anti-Trump sentiment, but more of an alignment or show of support for communities that might be disenfranchised or women's organizations like Planned Parenthood that provide health care for those in need. You think about the customer, and the industry, who works in the industry. It's part of who we are," he said.