Spongebob Mac n’ Cheese. Barbie-starred playtimes. Hating Guacamole. Skip-It’s. This is the childhood of the Gen-Z middle class American. Each summer, we are taken back to remember the good old days, via children of the streets of NYC, lingering memories of vacations and/or longstanding family traditions. Even what we wear in warm weather has essence of childhood. Beyond fun, we experienced a luxury not all children have: security.
Childhood is a buzzword this summer especially. Yes, it just so happens that over 2,000 children are being held at the U.S. Mexico border. (If you haven’t heard about that, PLEASE get off this page right now and go to the New York Times or CNN. You’re way behind.)
Beyond fascination and outrage, these children have spurred a massive conversation about human rights, youth and nationalism. Apart of that conversation, designers like Demna Gvasalia, Jeremy Scott and Jonathan Anderson reference “the good old days” in their Spring 2019 collections.
In Anderson’s collection for Loewe, pom-poms covered the floor to create a shag that their Instagram described as “a naïve playground” for the models. Icons like hot air balloons, animals and vivid colors in stripes and punchy patterns evoked a forgotten imagination of childhood. Anderson threw himself back into his Madrid boyhood to remind us what childhood should be.
Meanwhile, the kids of Parkland are working tirelessly to turn the imaginary ideal of gun control into a reality. It’s been nearly five months since their naivety, innocence and peace were taken from them.
Vetements’ collection evoked the same darkness that the children of the news are in today. Gvasalia’s collection took show-goers back in time to a war-torn Georgia where Gvasalia carried out his early years. NSS Magazine described the collection as “a sense of latent empathy.”
Empathy, perhaps a feeling as strong as hate, or hope, is a most useful emotion in times like these. Empathy means solidarity, and in solidarity, change. Both collections used nationalism beyond inspiration. In history classes, we learned that nationalism, a powerful tool, is strong propaganda when communicating ideas to the masses. As forces in the government use patriotism to push people out, designers use the same tool as a pathway to acceptance and love.
Jeremy Scott, via Moschino, dabbled in the same message. His campaign included supermodels such as Gigi Hadid and Kaia Gerber, painted in head-to-toe colored makeup by Pat McGrath, as a form of critique to the U.S. immigration policy: a play on the word “alien,” an often disrespectful way to refer the thousands south of the border seeking asylum.
At first the campaign sparked criticism, as it nearly glamorized the trauma of Lantinx people, and also used a born and raised American instead of an actual immigrant. However, a later comment by Scott cleared up much confusion: “The entire concept of my ad campaign was to bring attention to the US administration’s harsh stance towards “illegal aliens.” I painted the models in my show and this campaign was a way to bring attention to this and discuss what exactly is an “alien.” Are they orange blue yellow green? No they are our friends, neighbors, co workers, relatives, and people we love.”
This season was dedicated to the children at the border, the Parkland students, the DREAMers, the kids below the poverty line and all the boys and girls that are forced to grow up sooner than they ever should. At minimum, these collections and future OOTD’s will spark a dialogue that furthers the progression of human rights. At most, we all must urge these companies, that are making a profit off of lost childhood, nationalism, and conflict, to pay it forward.
Please consider donating to an organization that gives children the comfortability and luxury so many of us were lucky enough to have.