This year’s International Women’s Day has taken on much larger significance for the fashion community. It falls just a day after concluding a month-long marathon of runway shows in which current politics factored into the collections more than ever. One cause célèbre the entire industry agreed on this season was feminism. During New York fashion week, the CFDA partnered with Planned Parenthood, distributing fuchsia pins at shows in solidarity with the organization. Designers Prabal Gurung and Jonathan Simkhai sent out graphic T-shirts printed with slogans like “This is What a Feminist Looks Like” and “Feminist AF,” which quickly went viral. In Milan, the finale at Missoni featured models parading around in pink pussy hats like those associated with the women’s march in January.
Mara Hoffman’s show made perhaps the most powerful feminist statement of all. The New York-based designer invited four co-chairs of the women’s march to speak before her Fall 2017 presentation, and each took turns reading inspirational affirmations. “We come together in the spirit of democracy, unity, love, and strength with the message that women’s rights are human rights,” said co-chair Carmen Perez.
“I wanted to use my show as a platform to inspire action in others,” Hoffman said afterwards. “It sparked this feeling that there’s more we can be doing, and we want to be doing more.” Hoffman has kept true to her word, and unveiled a new feminist initiative today in honor of International Women’s Day. She partnered with social advocacy group Art Not War on a new portrait series of real, inspiring women from all walks of life, which debuted today on awoman.works.
The idea was "to bring together a provocative mix of 25 feminists, activists and artists who are doing crucial work to defend, promote, and organize in the name of justice, equality, love and community,” according to the press release.
Hoffman’s roster of muses is truly impressive and diverse. Each was shot by photographer Amber Mahoney, and wore pieces from Hoffman’s recently released Spring 2017 collection. The full list of women and their biographies are available on the new site, which is worth a full peruse. Some highlights include: feminist poet Cleo Wade, Art Not War activist Sarah Sophie Flicker, model-refugee advocate Nykhor Paul, and the director of engagement for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, De’ara Balenger.
"Mara and her team are a radical practice of what sisterhood means—love, support and persistence,” Balenger told Fashion Unfiltered. “What I've learned is that we need to change the culture of how women treat each other. We have to love ourselves and each other as women, and see that our fates are intertwined before we can truly break the glass ceiling— and Mara’s project is a reflection of that promise.”
“I think people are speaking out more; they’re getting louder,” said Hoffman, who will “continue to take action and speak up while understanding that I’m still learning. I’m still new to this conversation.” In addition to using her clothing label as a platform for empowering women, Hoffman is also raising her totally rad son Joaquin (you might recognize him from her finale bows) to be a feminist.
“I remember being in the early, early stages of my pregnancy and pretty openly wishing for a little girl. When I learned I was going to have a boy and began to understand the massive responsibility that came along with that, I realized it was one of the greatest gifts I could possibly receive,” Hoffman told FU. "It’s so clear to me that raising a kind man right now, one that stands with women and that fights for a better world, is so absolutely necessary.”