The event page for the much anticipated #MeToo fashion show, organized by Myriam Chalek and American Wardrobe and taking place in the middle of New York Fashion Week, was buzzing with updates ahead of Friday’s show.
On Wednesday, there was a reminder about it, and on Thursday another message prompted registered attendees to reconfirm to get the address of the show the next day. An eleventh-hour dress code was added: “only Creative Chic or Formal. Entry to be refused if dress code is not respected.”
The show on Friday was at Yotel’s Green Room 42, on the west side of midtown Manhattan, where, those in attendance appeared to have left their ball gowns and tuxedos in the closet and opted to take their chances on the “Creative Chic” aspect of the dress code.
Before the show began, organizer Chalek–who has also overseen the controversy- and publicity-generating International Dwarf Fashion Show and the Blind Fashion Show, featuring blind models–came out wearing a black lace skirt and corseted Xena-Warrior-Princess-esque ensemble.
She told the crowd: “I hope you enjoy the show. I hope you leave the show impacted. I don’t want anyone leaving the show saying, ‘Oh, that was a pretty show, I liked the clothes, whatever.’ No...this is more than that: This is about conveying...a message of empowerment, a message of raising awareness for sexual misconduct.”
Speaking with the Daily Beast on the phone last week, Chalek had explained that the show was "about art and what you can convey through the clothes.”
After that interview, two ads were posted on craigslist, under the “gigs” section, with the subject headings “Fashion Designer for NYFW” and “Showcase your Fashion Line @NYFW.”
One stated that garments would be used for the #MeToo fashion show, while the other only made mention of the brand “American Wardrobe” and explicitly stated that the work is for “no pay.”
Both said that, “The selected designers will be represented by the label American Wardrobe and will benefit of the media exposure and the plethora of fashion and business expertise of American Wardrobe,” and “Required style: Futuristic or haute couture only.”
The show had seven female models, each wearing a different ensemble within a wide range of styles. The first look down the runway was a long silver and black dress with black and silver wing-like shoulder-pads perched on the model, which gave off a Victoria’s Secret Angel vibe.
The other looks were heavy on the fur, leather and shiny fabrics, and there seemed to be an angel or angelic theme to the looks, albeit with fur, fringe and sequins. The last look was a shiny white bridal-prom type dress, with a long pleated iridescent train that looked like angel wings when the model held it and moved down the runway.
After all the models had walked and exited, they came back into the room. While Austra’s song “Hurt Me Now” echoed through the speakers, each female model walked in tandem with a man who wore a grotesque pig mask and had one wrist handcuffed.
Each model stood with her pig-faced partner, and then one by one told their personal stories of sexual misconduct, ranging from stalking to kidnapping to rape.
It was harrowing and deeply personal and touching. Each woman stood proud, held her head high and bravely recounted her own horrific experience. As each survivor finished her story, she would then handcuff her pig-partner to a chair, where he remained kneeling for the remainder of the show.
When the final model-survivor finished her story, all seven walked out of the room and Chalek — who mentioned during the show, as did several of the women in it that men are also victims of sexual assault — spoke to the crowd again, saying: "I feel like today, in nowadays society, a lot of young girls are kind of disregarding the symptoms of sexual misconduct...”
After the show the Daily Beast had the opportunity to speak with five of the men who’d been behind the pig masks. There had been another craigslist ad posted seven days before the show, seeking men to appear in pig masks in a #MeToo fashion show as “a pro-bono commitment” with “no pay.”
All five participants behind the pig masks the Daily Beast spoke with after the show were young-looking black men.
Abe King, from Atlanta, told us that he was playing the “victim’s predator.”
Asked about the show’s focus on the female experience of male sexual misconduct, Jeremy Carr, who also played a pig, said: “What worries me the most is that men, especially gay men, have the exact same experience and gay men are not really willing to talk about it because it affects their feeling of masculinity so I really hope that this #MeToo movement can be as inclusive, as, to all groups.”
When The Daily Beast asked Ms. Chalek last week if her work with the #MeToo fashion show could be extended to include men, she said that “from a statistical point of view harassment is towards women… most of those victims are women. Now I am not denying that, you know, some men are victim and have survived the trauma of the sexual abuse but if you look at the statistics, the victims and survivors are women.”
Designer Limor Golan Nesher loaned ten looks to the show, but only one was used in it. Asked if any of her clothes were for sale, she said “no, not at all, it’s non-profit, period... Myriam is the organizer and the founder of American Wardrobe.”
A number of people who attended the show mentioned that they thought it was part of the official NYFW, but it is not. Last May, Arab Fashion Week clarified that the International Dwarf Fashion Show was not part of their official roster.
The Daily Beast also spoke with the event’s DJ, DJATM, who said Chalek reached out to him about the show after he posted his business on a fashion website “to just get my business out there.”
DJATM and his business partner drove up from Boston to provide free DJ services and equipment for the #MeToo fashion show.
DJATM explained that “once she told me what it was, I said I’ll donate my time, I mean because money, I mean, money isn’t everything you know. I thought I have two sisters,” he said. “I have sisters, you know and then when she told me the purpose about the show, I thought about a lot of things through my mind, and I said that’s not a problem at all, I’ll donate my time for a good cause.”
He added a moment later: "I usually don’t work for free.”