LOVE. STRENGTH. UNIFIED. COURAGE. LOYALTY. Those words came out both big and bold on Donatella Versace’s sporty Fall 2017 runway. One after another, they built a story—one that strongly nods to the political leanings of the designer and the Italian house. But as with any message, context is important, and one has to wonder what weight these words hold on their own, when they are in the hands of the consumer.
Compared to other designers who have been making #resistance slogans part of their collections, Versace’s offering is a bit more vague. The viewer must watch the show or read a review in order to extract the precise message. But on the street, out of context, “love”, “strength”, and “loyalty” are simply empowering words that can be found on any number of garments. It lacks the specificity of a more direct statement, like “We should all be feminists,” which has now appeared on two separate runways in the last six months.
It’s interesting, as it placates consumers with all types of political interests. Those who are looking for a strong resistance message get one from the show. Those who want to sit out on political discussions can still buy and wear the product without feeling as though there is a motive attached.
What it does show, however, is how the house—whose little sister line, Versus, also aimed to send a message of unity and inclusivity—has captured an aspect of the sports community that many fashion brands ignore: sports rhetoric. Anyone who’s seen commercials for performance sneakers or electrolyte boosters knows the deep voice that booms over pumping music, growling words like “faster” or “stronger” or “power”. Versace’s all-caps, wide-font slogans mimic this perfectly.
In its own way, Versace has managed to fit the international conversation into this season’s theme. This is performance fashion, reflective of what consumers of high-fashion want the most: socially conscious brands and designers. Does it work as advertised? We’ll have to wait and see.