NEW YORK, United States — We need leaders. Beware false gods. Wear cool clothes.
The design duo Maxwell Osborne and Dao-Yi Chow have opted out of the New York Fashion Week frenzy to present their latest ready-to-wear collection Tuesday — instead of the usual February or September — against a dystopian backdrop that served as an Orwellian wake-up call.
Before their models race-walked down the runway, sirens blaring, workers stood silent in assembly lines, their faces covered in black mesh, hands hidden in yellow rubber gloves with hammers and cement blocks before them. Above them, two smoothed out a monument wall with plaster that was later scrawled, graffiti-style, with "We Need Leaders."
It's as if dumping fashion week actually meant something.
"The concept of the show really was just a reflection of the political landscape that's happening not only here in the states but all around the world," Chow said backstage after the show. "Just this idea of false leaders and false icons that are being built up."
Some of the spring clothes bore witness, printed with "WNL," for "We need leaders," in a hero-less world that WE — no names mentioned — have blindly constructed to leaders — no names mention — undeserving of adoration.
The idea consumed the two as they worked on this spring collection, which retained their usual elegance as the models — men and women — marched in military gear as a mini resistance militia. Some seams were left threadbare. Pops of yellow represented a call to action.
Saying goodbye to fashion week, both agreed, has freed them up, representing push back of their own.
"It's a rebellion on our side. The old system and the old way is not for everyone," Chow said. "It's our sort of resistance to the fashion calendar, if you will."
They said they found themselves with more time to spend on the show, the collection, without the craziness of fashion week bearing down.
In a year of icons lost, and shown on Prince's birthday, there was a sadness, however unintentional. Are we without hope?
"I feel hopeful," Osborne said. "It's more about a wake up."
He's a man of few words.
Chow, the talker, added that the show was "supposed to be hopeful. It is like if we continue to let things happen the way that they are happening, if we continue to blindly follow people that do not really deserve to be leaders, that will not have a monument built for them, then we will be in trouble. It will be 1984 in 2017."