New York Fashion Week has found its latest front row star: Feminist icon Gloria Steinem.
The 83-year-old activist and author attended designer Prabal Gurung’s Spring 2018 collection runway show on Sunday. She sat in the front row alongside poet and activist Cleo Wade, and former Chief of Staff to Hillary Clinton Huma Abedin. Activist DeRay Mckesson and poet Rupi Kaur were also in attendance.
Steinem posted on her Instagram account about the experience, writing: “There is a first time for everything, even at 83! First #nyfw show.” She also praised Gurung, calling him “a kind man doing great work in fashion and beyond.”
After the show, Gurung tweeted about the experience of having Steinem in attendance.
“Dreams do come true,” he wrote. “Her life has been an inspiration. Forever grateful for this moment... Gloria Steinem is my ultimate superhero.”
There’s likely a reason that Gurung was able to get Steinem to show up for him, as the designer has long interwoven politics with fashion.
He has been a vocal advocate for expanding conventional and limiting ideas of beauty through his runway shows and beyond. In February 2017, he launched a collection with plus-size brand Lane Bryant and he ended his Fall 2017 runway show with models walking out in T-shirts that had slogans like, “Nevertheless she persisted,” “I am an immigrant” and “We will not be silenced.” His Spring 2018 show was themed, “Stronger in Color.”
According to The Cut, the designer ran onto the runway at the end of the show wearing a T-shirt that read: “RESIST WITH <3.” Both that shirt and a T-shirt that featured the words “I AM A MICHELLE” on its front were reportedly given to those in attendance.
Prabal Gurung explained to HuffPost what Steinem’s presence at the show meant to him:
It is a true honor to have such wonderful women, who I call my PG muses support at our show. I’ve always been inspired by the substance of a person over just surface beauty. This season was all about exploring the multifaceted meaning of beauty, and our muses represent just that— they are varied, empowered, emotional, intelligent, and strong women of beauty and substance. To have Gloria Steinem, who has been a long time hero of mine, attend our show— her first and only fashion week show ever, really is incredibly moving. I’ve read her book, watched her documentary and been an avid follower and believer in her message for quite some time. To have her support back truly means the world.
Our approach to casting our show is to also represent our brand ideals of said beauty with substance, and femininity with a bite, on the runway. We work meticulously with our casting director Maida to find fresh and beautiful girls to represent our brand with elegance and strength and their own point of view. Before the show started, I was able to share with all of our young models that a hero, Gloria Steinem, was at our show in the front row. Making them aware of their power before the show really gave them such shining confidence and excitement, and helped them understand that they too have a platform and can advocate for change. You can see it in their eyes, in their walk, and in their hearts.
As Mckesson told WWD on Sunday: “Prabal is a great example of somebody using their platform to make sure that he is using his platform to spread positive messages about resistance.”