collina strada’s spring/summer 17 presentation was a win for model diversity
For her fifth New York Fashion Week outing, designer Hillary Taymour enlisted all models of colour to present a collection inspired by mums and bike messengers.
Collina Strada has debuted its past collections through slightly other-worldly NYFW presentations — intimate installations involving jagged mirrors and enormous moon rocks. This season wasn't different: designer Hillary Taymour set her spring/summer 17 collection against a visual projection by artist Soliana Habte, an iridescent resin flow that looked almost like a soupy rainbow. "Soliana makes resin sculptures, and this video feels like the process of her creating her artwork," said Taymour during the presentation. Despite her predilections for ethereal environments, Taymour's casting choices very much respond to the here and now: she recruited all models of colour.
"I was sick of seeing one black girl in each show, and I kind of wanted to throw it in people's faces. And getting show packs from bookers, you get like three options [for models of colour]; it's awful," explained Taymour. In her show notes, Taymour addressed the decision by positioning it in a wider cultural context: "It is our duty to acknowledge this particularly at a time when African Americans are taking to the streets to remind us that their lives matter — a function of our memories that really should never have failed to begin with," she wrote. "We need to amplify those voices and use our collective influence to push change. Last season, I used male models to show the irrelevance of gender norms. We still have miles to go to truly diversify fashion and extract truth from it."
In February, Taymour assembled that cast of gender-nonspecific models to present a series of mechanic jumpsuits and boxy bootcut trousers in sandy hues. This season, she evolved similar silhouettes (there's another enviable pair of overalls) but presented them in bolder colours, like deep emerald greens and pale lavenders.
One of the collection's standout pieces — cropped jeans with flames up the sides — was inspired by bike messengers. Embroidered on tees and hats (and bedazzled on Crocs), was "CALL MOM," an ever-relevant reminder. After forgetting to call her own for three weeks, "one night, I was like, 'I know I'm supposed to do something tonight… I'm just gonna stay home and draw on jeans. So I drew 'Call Mom' on the jeans, but I still forgot to call her!" said Taymour. "She texted me the next morning like, 'ARE YOU ALIVE?' so I figured I'd put her in the collection. I think my dad's a little jealous." These bits and pieces of personal interactions with the world around her brought lightness and balance to Taymour's larger statement about it.
Each model wore makeup that was "luminescent, chameleon-like" in Taymour's words — an interpretation of Habte's visual piece. As the rainbow washed over show-goers, it felt like the future the fashion industry should be working towards.
Text Emily Manning
Photography Ziqian Wang