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Political power dressing at New York Fashion Week

The catwalk throbbed with politics in New York on Thursday as designers threw their weight behind a campaign to promote tolerance and La Perla gave women's freedom a boost with a ready-to-wear debut. The white bandanas worn by models strutting the runway for Tommy Hilfiger in Los Angeles were ubiquitous on the first official day of the new season as the glitterati battled near blizzard-like conditions and a winter snow storm in New York for the fashion week kickoff.

Calvin Klein dispatched bandanas with their invitations for Friday's hotly anticipated debut by Belgian director of Dior fame, Raf Simons. Thai-born designer to the smart New York woman, Thakoon Panichgul sported one on his wrist, as did Japanese-born designer Tadashi Shoji who chose the youth revolution of the 1960s-70s as his inspiration, drawing parallels with protests sweeping the world today against newly minted US President Donald Trump -- albeit without naming him.

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The bandanas are the brainchild of the London-based Business of Fashion website, which is calling on the global fashion community to show support for "solidarity, human unity and inclusiveness amidst growing uncertainty and a dangerous narrative peddling division." "Wear a white bandana as a sign to the world that you believe in the common bonds of humankind -- regardless of race, sexuality, gender or religion," says the website, promoting the hashtag TiedTogether.

Organizers say the bandanas will be worn by designers, integrated into shows and worn by celebrity guests, not just in New York but as the global fashion bandwagon moves onto London, Milan and Paris. They also urge people to donate to the American Civil Liberties Union -- which took the US government to court over Trump's now suspended travel ban -- and the UN Refugee agency.

Political power dressing at New York Fashion Week

"It's a hot-button issue"

"It's a hot-button issue," Thakoon told AFP backstage before his spring/summer 2017 presentation -- ditching the official fall/winter season to offer clothes that go on sale immediately. "I was born and raised in Thailand, I moved here with this idea that America is really where you can have the freedom to not only live, but to think as well and that fostered my creative process," he said.

If there were no bandanas on the catwalk at La Perla, it was the star billing of the day, opened by British supermodel Naomi Campbell, 46, and closed by Kendall Jenner, 21, in an embroidered transparent dress. But creative director Julia Haart told AFP there was nothing laid-back or unengaged about the Italian luxury lingerie giant's first foray into ready-to-wear.

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"I don't think about it as politics, I think about it as women. I want women to feel strong, empowered, in control of their own destiny," she said. "It's all about the freedom baby." Building on the brand's DNA, she crafted cups built into the clothing without wires to support a woman without constricting her. The fabrics were stretch to maximize movement.

"I want to destroy this idea that you either have to be either beautiful or comfortable. I want both. I want it all," Haart said. Her inspiration was the British garden, which she characterized as a riot of color and flowers that grow freely. The catwalk was set up to replicate a two-story "mansion" surrounded by roses and bougainvilleas.

Very sexy, the collection was fitted to the body with lots of lace, short dresses, lace on the pockets of pants and bras a dominant look.

'Dress all women'

Shoji, who moved to the United States in 1973, drew a parallel between the inspiration for his collection and protests today sweeping the world and mentioned the women's march on Washington on January 21. Through his collection and by wearing the bandana, he told AFP that he wanted to send a message of "unity".

"I'm an immigrant and 50 percent of my employees are immigrants," he said. "The philosophy of my company is to dress all women, any country, any religion, any size, any color." Rag and Bone, like an increasing number of labels chose to ditch a traditional runway show, this season in favor of a presentation to look back on its 15 years in the business.

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Chief executive Marcus Wainwright, originally from Britain, said it "felt tone deaf to do a show" after the US election. The new collection was a retrospective of its classic look, such as tailored jeans, bomber jacket, plain sweater and long scarf. "I think it's about clarifying what we've been doing," Wainright said in the program notes. (AFP)

Rag and Bone: Credit: Slaven Vlasic / Getty Images North America / AFP

La Perla: Dimitrios Kambouris / Getty Images North America / AFP