TOME designers Ryan Lobo and Ramon Martin realised their take on ‘Gorilla Fur’ in Peruvian Alpaca, hand-knitted by female collectives in the Andes
Credit: Dan Lecca

Make American New York“, read the Trumpian red trucker hats at Public School. “People are people”, read a shirt at Christian Siriano; “We are all human beings“, said another at Creatures of Comfort; “The future is female, 3 million, I Count, She Persisted“, and more echoed Prabal Gurung.

The Autumn/Winter 2017 shows at New York Fashion Week are shaping up to be some of the most explicitly political in recent memory, with many designers opting to literally spell out their statements in the form of clothing, mostly t-shirts, emblazoned with slogans exhorting feminist and humanist principles as a vocal stance against the Trump administration and its hurtful, divisive rhetoric.

At TOME, the New York-based label of Australian designers Ryan Lobo and Ramon Martin, the offering was just as politically charged but the delivery was much more nuanced, with the designers drawing heavily from a rich feminist art history practice (and their own archives) to make a resounding and cerebral comment on the present moment.

“Women’s bodies are still under attack in 2017″, designers Lobo and Martin said in a statement released alongside their collection, unveiled today.

“It is no coincidence then that we look to the sculptures of Dorothea Tanning and Alina Szapocznikow—disembodied female arms, legs, torsos—and of course, to the work of Louise Bourgeois.”

At left, Dorothea Tanning, Étreinte, 1969, Wool flannel and fake fur stuffed with wool; and right, Alina Szapocznikow, Dessert III, 1971, Coloured polyester resin
Credit: TOME/Instagram

The designers invoked a number of iconic female artists, in particular citing the soft sculptural work of the late American surrealist painter Tanning, and the subversive Polish sculptor Alina Szapocznikow, her fetishistic Dessert series in particular. Some looks featuring white silhouettes of nude busts and torso’s were redolent of Bourgeois’s doll-like soft sculptures, often featuring cut-outs or buttons in place of nipples.

The Guerilla Girls, an anonymous collective who have advocated for women’s and human rights in the arts and beyond for the last thirty years, were also cited not only through the reproduction of their manifesto, The advantages of being a woman artist, on the back of blazers but through the inclusion of playful banana embroidery and celebration of inclusivity – the casting included three ‘plus size’ models and an older model in a lilac PVC trench with silver hair.

More explicitly, the designers created what they’ve dubbed ‘gorilla fur’ knitwear realised in Peruvian Alpaca and hand-knitted by female artisan collectives in the Andes. It lined and covered sleeves and jackets cinched with loose PVC corsetry. Guests also received a banana in their seats, as well as a Planned Parenthood pin.

“This is a time of global protest, and [the Guerilla Girls’] particular brand of sardonic political commentary is all too timely. The fur and bananas are fake,” said the designers, “but the sentiment is real. Humour is resistance!

“This collection has many messages—ethical, sustainable, playful, intellectual, sensual—but above all this is our feminist battle cry: ‘Free The Nipple, because: My Body My Choice!’”

Tile image: Dan Lecca
Cover image: Courtesy of the artists/Instagram