Do we always have to be 100 percent serious and staid when we talk about gender equality and the timely topic of women in politics? At Wednesday night's launch event/film screening for Rachel Antonoff's new collaboration with & Other Stories, it felt very possible to move the conversation forward while incorporating humor — and really cute clothes.
The Swedish, H&M-owned retail chain has made a point to always incorporate "stories" into its branding. Meanwhile, Antonoff's creative look books, fashion week presentations and fashion films have always been memorable for their story-telling elements. Thus, Antonoff felt the collaboration was a great fit. "It’s very important for me to design around a story and not just a trend," she told us at the party. When their meetings began, Antonoff's team presented three story concepts and the company chose "Campaign." So she got started on a wardrobe of pieces designed with a modern girl running for some sort of office in mind. Think seersucker fit-and-flare dresses, cropped pastel suiting and linen crop tops and skirts, all in a color palette of red, white and blue with some pink and yellow mixed in. There's also a t-shirt that reads "We try harder," and a sweatshirt that says, "It's time."
That wardrobe came to life in a short film by Antonoff's pal Lena Dunham, starring Zoe Kazan as young girl campaigning for office in her hometown, then daydreaming about becoming president of the United States — all while wearing Antonoff's collection of dainty dresses and pastel, retro-inspired suits. There's even a choreographed dance montage.
Antonoff said that while she fully intends to vote for Hillary Clinton next year, the presidential candidate was not a source of inspiration: "We started working on this over a year ago, so while it is weirdly timely right now, she wasn’t really on our mind then."
As for the contentious topic of whether it's appropriate to incorporate fashion into discussions of women in political positions, Antonoff feels the way a lot of us do: unsure. She explained: "It’s so hard. On the one hand it’s more fun to talk about women’s clothes than men’s clothes because they’re more exciting, but I feel like in the time that we live in — with how sensitive everything is and the fact that we still don’t get paid the same as men and the fact that such a high percentage of women are the recipients of minimum wage — for now maybe we either talk about what everybody’s wearing or not at all."
At the same time, Antonoff admitted, "It’s not like I don’t notice when Michelle Obama wears something fabulous." (Same.) "I wish that everybody was equal because then we could talk about it and it wouldn’t matter."
In a statement (she didn't make it to the party), Lena Dunham put it thusly: “Rachel is family, and I love what she does: make witty clothes that let us know fashion is about more than chasing an image of perfection. This video sends a simple but important message: never underestimate anyone based on their gender, race or sexuality.”
Browse more images of the collection below and shop it May 12 in stores and online.