Opening Ceremony's Celeb-Filled NYFW Show Grappled With a Scary Election Season

Aidy Bryant, Aubrey Plaza, Whoopi Goldberg and Fred Armisen listen to transgender actress Sarah McBride at Opening Ceremony’s “Pageant of the People” presentation on September 11, 2016. Image via Getty.

Opening Ceremony designers Carol Lim and Humberto Leon, not known for sticking to the straightforward runway presentation, put on an ambitious and very wide-ranging show yesterday on the anniversary of September 11, dubbed the “Pageant of the People.”

When Opening Ceremony was founded in 2002, the designers took inspiration from the Olympic games, adopting “a multinational approach to retail”; this concept was broadly applied in their Sunday show, which included flag-bearers wearing varsity jackets customized to represent various countries. Hosted by Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, comedians and actresses including Rashida Jones, Jessica Williams, Aubrey Plaza, and Whoopi Goldberg walked the runway and participated in politically-themed Q&A sessions. Before leaving, guests could register to vote.


The designers are both children of immigrants, and the looming election is clearly on everyone’s mind. “We’re pro-gay rights, pro-immigrant, pro-Black Lives Matter,” Leon told the New York Times. “And we’re in a place where we question a lot of what’s happening and are not afraid to talk about it.” Orange Is The New Black actress Natasha Lyonne, who walked in the show, told the Times:

“I’m not Captain Fashion over here, but when Humberto reached out to me, I said yes before he could even get out the idea,” said Ms. Lyonne, a star of “Orange Is the New Black.”

A fashion show staged as a theatricalized town-hall meeting “transcends clothes and becomes about a moment in time,” she added. “I don’t see it being a big debate forum so much as vague metaphor for maintaining personal freedom in an increasingly terrifying world.”

The show, which has garnered some very positive reviews, also featured Sarah McBride, a transgender activist and press secretary for the Human Rights Campaign. “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,” she said onstage. “We must be a country where everyone has the freedom to live openly and equally.”

Other famous faces in the show included Alia Shawkat, Ali Wong, Aidy Bryant, Rowan Blanchard, and Diane Guerrero. Here’s what that looked like:

From left: Whoopi Goldberg, Aidy Bryant, Rashida Jones, Alia Shawkat. Images via Getty.
From left: Diane Guerrero, Jessica Williams, Aubrey Plaza, Natasha Lyonne. Images via Getty.

A lot of the clothes were pretty underwhelming, utilizing my least favorite color combination of navy and black—there were a few standouts, though:

Bright hues and strange, exciting shapes anchored by glossy red heels. Image via Getty.
Eye-catching stripes. Image via Getty.

The idea of Rashida Jones standing on a fashion week runway talking about the Syrian refugee crisis with Fred Armisen is a little absurd, sure—but maybe in a good way. It can’t be a bad thing for fashion to make an effort to engage with something other than itself.

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Ellie Shechet

Ellie is a freelance writer and former senior writer at Jezebel. She is pursuing a master's degree in science journalism at Columbia University in the fall.