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Designer Q-and-A: Rachel Comey on the women’s march, the future, and the transformative power of fashion

Rachel Comey
Rachel Comey
(Isadora / BFA / REX / Shutterstock / WWD)

Back in New York Sunday after a nonstop 48 hours for the Women’s March on Washington, Rachel Comey discussed her experience and how the fashion industry might keep this momentum going.

Last week, Comey wrote a letter to the Council of Fashion Designers of America encouraging her fellow designers to champion the march via social media, hitting the pavement and donating proceeds.

Dealing with a bout of post-presidential election blues, she mulled over how to energize her own constituency. Starting with a long look at her company, she tuned into the fact that the fashion industry employs a lot of women and caters to them as customers. When she heard about the March on Washington, she knew she was in. And the event did not disappoint — the designer even considered the 90-minute standstill that left her “pancaked” with 1,200 members of the SEIU labor union to be “really great and interesting.”

“I bought my train ticket Nov. 20. I was so on it. As soon as I heard about it, I rented the biggest house I could find,” Comey said. “I bought four train tickets and just put random names down, practically. I was like, ‘You guys are coming with me or not coming with me, I’m just buying the tickets.’”

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WWD: Where do you think things will go from here?

Rachel Comey: Everybody who I knew there, including myself, was not politically active in any way. I think a lot of people are activated now. This is not one small problem any more. It’s a global issue that we’re all talking about on so many different levels. I think that and hope that people will stay motivated and find the things that are meaningful to them, and find ways to be organized, connected and active.

WWD: What role do you think fashion plays in all of this?

R.C.: I think it is whatever role you want it to be. I think fashion has the power to transform.

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WWD: Do you think brands will try to keep this going?

R.C.: That would be an amazing achievement. I don’t think it was such a difficult thing to stand up for women as we did yesterday. I know lots of brands would rather stay silent. Hopefully, that is to their detriment in some way. You know, turn it around.

WWD: Do you think Ivanka Trump’s own pursuits will change things at all?

R.C.: I don’t know. I’m more worried about election reform. That is the scary thing for me. The majority of people in this country did not vote for him, thank God. I don’t really know what Ivanka’s relationship is to her father. I don’t even know anything about her career honestly.

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WWD: Will there be any town hall type for people who work in fashion or design to come together for a “Where do we go from here?” meeting to try to do something collectively?

R.C.: Maybe, that sounds nice, that sounds hopeful.

WWD: In hindsight, what were your expectations of the march?

R.C.: I didn’t really know what to expect. I was just trying to be motivating to others, my team and my friends. The week prior there was a lot of fear-mongering going around, thinking there was going to be some kind of terrorism. I was just going around trying to squash all that and keep people flowing towards a march near them.

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WWD: When you think about the march, what jumps out at you?

R.C.: I am so grateful for the massive amounts of waves of people in cities around the world. I feel more optimistic, empowered and inspired than ever. That was my takeaway at the moment. The main thing was the turnout across the globe — it feels like it was on every continent and in every major and minor area. I was just looking at the Antarctic photo. That’s so awesome.

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