Gloria Steinem and Huma Abedin sat front row for Prabal Gurung at NYFW, but the designer's politics were subtle

Designer Prabal Gurung walks out to take a bow after his Spring 2018 runway show during New York Fashion Week. (Photo: Getty Images)

It’s true that fashion is, in large part, ephemeral. But for all the hubbub about resistance seen on last season’s runways — in seating placements and gift bags, and on statement T-shirts — they’ve been largely devoid of politics this season.

Take Prabal Gurung, who, since starting his line in 2009, has made a name for himself both with his design talent and his commitment to pro-feminist, pro-immigrant activism. That ethos is reflected in Gurung’s front row, where on Sunday night during New York Fashion WeekGloria Steinem sat beside former Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin.

Bella Hadid closed Prabal Gurung’s Spring 2018 show. Her sister, Gigi, opened the show. (Photo: Getty Images)

Gurung acknowledged Steinem, 83, with an air-kiss when he took his bow — a demonstration of his appreciation for her place in history, which touched the designer so profoundly that it helped shape his Spring 2017 collection.

But for this show, Gurung’s politics were more implicit, save for the shirt he wore instructing the crowd to “resist with” love. The runway was reflective, figuratively and literally, thanks to a dozen or so oval mirrors hanging from the ceiling. The collection was full of billowing chiffon and Victorian corsets — traditionally feminine forms reimagined for a modern, liberated woman who might wear a corset “as a vehicle for irony, resistance, and self-creation” — at least according to the show’s notes (another place where Gurung’s politics are most easily seen this year).

Curvy model Ashley Graham walks the runway during the Prabal Gurung Spring 2018 show. (Photo: Getty Images)

It was a notable shift in tone from the interview he gave to Vogue for his Resort 2018 collection, shown in July, in which he noted, “Berlin has obviously overcome so much hate and intolerance, both culturally and politically, so I find modern Berlin to be incredibly inspiring. For me, it’s a reminder that we can all continue to grow and evolve.” Before that, on his fall-winter 2017 runway last season, attendees were spoon-fed a heavy dose of political messaging via T-shirts: “This is what a feminist looks like”, “I am an immigrant”, “Girls just want to have fundamental rights”, “Nevertheless, she persisted” and —  well, you get the idea.

To be sure, it’s not only Gurung whose runway has taken a less aggressive approach to politics. Last season, the Council of Fashion Designers gave attendees at five shows “Fashion Stands with Planned Parenthood” pins, and the trade magazine Business of Fashion started the #TiedTogether movement, wherein NYFW-goers wore white bandanas as a sign of solidarity and inclusiveness. This season, there’ve been pins given for the American Civil Liberties Union at a show or two, but largely, the political showings have been muted.

Worth noting: Gurung included plus-size models on his runway again this season (Candice Huffine and Ashley Graham), which has left fans expecting standard-defying runways from the Nepalese-born designer. Maybe he’ll add transgender and older models next time?

Until then, fans have been left with a stimulating collection to admire and ponder.

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Alexandra Mondalek is a writer for Yahoo Style + Beauty. Follow her on Twitter @amondalek.