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Pig masks and voodoo ceremonies: New York Fashion Week tackles #MeToo in signature style

The #MeToo fashion show ended with models walking out with their “pigs,” referring to the French equivalent of #MeToo, “balance ton porc,” or “expose your pig.” (Photo: Getty Images)

To call the #MeToo fashion show a fashion show at all would be a stretch.

If you reduce a fashion show to its most basic level, you have a group of models wearing clothes a designer is trying to sell. At the Yotel hotel in Manhattan on Feb. 9, there was no featured designer of whom the audience was made aware, and no accompanying show notes. The event was free to anyone who wanted to attend, Instagram meritocracy inapplicable. It was not on the official New York Fashion Week schedule, and its organizer, a French woman named Myriam Chalek, is not officially affiliated with Tarana Burke, the creator of #MeToo.

Ahead of Fashion Month, fashion editors wondered what Fashion Week might look like in a post-Weinstein world. Discussion heated up even more after confirmed (albeit long-awaited) reports surfaced that some of fashion’s most celebrated photographers, Mario Testino and Bruce Weber, have been accused of sexual harassment. But the #MeToo show would not placate their curiosities — at least not from a sartorial standpoint.

Chalek set the event’s tone with an introduction, stating, “I want you to leave feeling impacted, this is not about pretty clothes. … There are girls who are still victims who don’t have the inner strength to speak their reality.”

A model during the #MeToo fashion show. (Photo: Getty Images)

A tall black woman with cropped natural hair opened the show wearing a floor-length printed dress with black-and-silver angel wings. Seven more women would follow, of varying heights and sizes, wearing a curious amalgamation of fur stoles, Xena Warrior Princess bodices, tiaras, and what you might call a Halloween wedding dress.

Typically, a fashion show’s end is marked by a finale which includes a procession of all the models at once. In this case, the eight women reemerged with men handcuffed at their sides wearing pig masks. (Sandra Muller, a French journalist, started the hashtag #BalanceTonPorc, which means “expose your pig,” and serves as the equivalent to the American hashtag.)

Whatever you made of the, shall we say, whimsical clothing, the scene soon turned from fairy tale to cautionary. Each woman spent a few minutes telling the audience who she was and what her specific #MeToo experience was — sexual assault, rape, harassment, stalking.

By the end of it, you weren’t left wondering about the clothes so much as the stories told, which was the point of it all, despite calling the event a fashion show.

Earlier in the week, fashion publicist and founder of the People’s Revolution Kelly Cutrone staged a different #MeToo-inspired event, a “voodoo” fashion show. Cutrone’s show featured designers XULY.Bët, MIMI PROBER, and Hogan McLaughlin, led by a New Orleans priestess.

“Voodoo ceremony” with designers XULY.Bët, Mimi Prober, and Hogan McLaughlin, Feb. 8, 2018. (Photo: Getty Images)

Worth noting: Unlike fashion month exactly one year ago — following the 2016 U.S. presidential election—no #TimesUp pins or literature were delivered to show guests as they had been for Planned Parenthood and similar organizations at designer shows. And editors wondered whether designers — most jarringly, Tom Ford — had considered the current conversation surrounding sexual assault at all (Ford’s garish, vulgar collection seemed to suggest quite the opposite.)

There are still four days left of NYFW before the fashion circuit heads to Europe (London, Milan, and Paris) for the rest of Fashion Month. Unfortunately, sexual harassment and assault is bound not by international borders. Here’s hoping activists’ messages about speaking out for change aren’t either.

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