Fashion diplomacy can be derailed because it’s too overt or hollow—think the kente cloth worn by Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats when they took a knee for George Floyd. It also fails because so often the clothes—excuse me—suck: in 1993, The Washington Post eviscerated Bill Clinton for wearing a $40 Timex, a fat prop meant to help him blend in with the constituents he met at high school gyms and diners. But refreshed hope springs once again from the well of New York representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Over the weekend, the congresswoman was spotted walking down the slate-grey steps of Capitol Hill wearing this summer’s hottest grail, the Telfar Shopping Bag.
For starters the bag, which appears to be medium size in the color oxblood, is a spot-on fashion choice. Telfar has trended on Twitter more times this summer than Donald Trump blunders: the brand’s weekly drops are accompanied by a chorus of people complaining they missed out, or a smaller contingent loudly celebrating a successful cop. So on a basic level, sporting the “Bushwick Birkin” is the coolest style moment on Capitol Hill since… we’ll get back to you.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at the Capitol, August 22, 2020.
Tom Williams / Getty Images
But the bag is more than a fashion choice: It also aligns seamlessly with AOC’s entire philosophy. (A rep for Telfar confirms that Ocasio-Cortez purchased the bag herself; Ocasio-Cortez’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.) Telfar’s slogan is “NOT FOR YOU—FOR EVERYONE.” Brand founder Telfar Clemens has organized his label around a more democratic notion of luxury than is typically represented by fashion houses. Devoted fans buy the bag because it represents a vision in which true luxury consists of widely accessible quality products, both in terms of price and sheer numbers. For high fashion, luxury shows up in the price tag; for streetwear brands like Supreme, it’s juiceed out of super-limited releases. Just like AOC, Telfar argues that the longtime status objects and privileges of the rich and powerful be made widely available to others. The price of a Telfar bag is somewhere between $150 to $257, depending on size, and after a run of limited drops, the brand opened up December pre-orders so that anyone who wanted the bag (or multiples of it) could get one.
In this case, fashion diplomacy works because AOC put the actions ahead of the symbol. On her, the Telfar bag wears less like a costume than it does a crest she’s been awarded for getting behind the issues she cares about. The Telfar bag gleefully reimagines what luxury fashion can look like by detonating the values it’s held so dearly; Ocasio-Cortez dropped into Washington as a fully-formed voice for those who had long felt underrepresented. In reference to his populist vision going mainstream, Clemens told The New Yorker earlier this year, “I’m American. There’s no reason this can’t work.” It sounds not unlike something AOC herself would say.
Originally Appeared on GQ