NEW YORK — Opening Ceremony, always game for something different at New York Fashion Week, threw a “Pageant of the People” hosted by Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein with a star-studded panel that took on tough issues ranging from personal identity to prison reform.
Staged on Sunday night at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, named for the left-leaning Republican senator from New York, the pageant had the two “Portlandia” creators trying to crack the grim runway demeanors of runway models as they emceed, quizzing Whoopi Goldberg, Rashida Jones, Aidy Bryant, comic Ali Wong, Natasha Lyonne, transgender activist Sarah McBride and others who strutted the runway in looks from the brand.
This came after a parade of flags from 50 countries that provided some of the first immigrants to the U.S. And all with a clear message from Opening Ceremony designers Carol Lim and Humberto Leon: In this unpredictable election cycle, DO get out and vote!
It was equal parts fashion show and amusing town hall, held on the 15th anniversary of the World Trade Center terror attacks downtown. Lim and Leon dedicated the evening to the victims of Sept. 11.
As for the clothes, the two — both first-generation Americans, Lim from Korea and Leon who is Peruvian and Chinese — settled on a celebration of immigrants. They referenced natural frontiers with wildflower motifs evoking such places as the Blue Ridge Mountains. Urban skylines played out in colorful yarns. Graphic stripes in knits symbolized harvest colors, and varsity jackets worn by flag-bearers matched each country’s theme colors and symbols.
Jones, formerly of TV’s “Parks and Recreation” and more recently the comedy series “Angie Tribeca,” deftly fielded a refugee question from Brownstein. Asked why we should care about the world’s refugees when we have enough problems here in America, she referenced the millions of refugees from Syria and offered:
“I would venture to say a lot of us here are descendants of immigrants and refugees and slaves, and look where we are. We’re so lucky. We’re so privileged.”
Others also got down to serious business.
McBride, the first openly trans person to speak at a national political convention — the Democratic one in Philadelphia — responded to the question, “What does it mean to be an American?” this way: “Being an American is an action. It’s an ideal to strive for. … We must never be a country that says there’s only one way to love, only one way to look and only one way to live.”
Not your usual fashion week fare, to be sure. Nor was Bryant’s response when all were asked why it’s important to vote.
“You should vote because, ladies, less than 100 years ago we still couldn’t,” Bryant responded.
Wong answered this way: “If you’re not going to vote for yourself, vote for your mom, your daughter, your cousin, your aunt who deserves equal pay and better maternity leave.”
Jessica Williams, famous as a faux news correspondent on “The Daily Show,” suggested voting was a reminder: “We should vote to be a part of something bigger than ourselves, so we can forget who we are for a second and take care of others.”
Said Rowan Blanchard, 14, of the Disney Channel series “Girl Meets World”: “You should vote for my future.”