How Steve Aoki Responds to Trump’s America Through Fashion

Steve Aoki poses with models before his Dim Mak Collection runway show. The clothes were Japan-meets-L.A. streetwear, with a touch of politics. (Photo: Yahoo Style)

It takes a big name, like a politician or the president, to shut down a New York City block. But for Steve Aoki, that’s exactly what happened.

On Tuesday night, the popular DJ turned designer hosted a runway show-cum-concert with Build Series, replete with a marching band and onstage performances by Aoki himself, in which hundreds of fans gathered for free to preview items from the musician’s Dim Mak Collection, and get the first listen on songs from his upcoming studio album.

Models at the Steve Aoki and Build Series Dim Mak Collection “Paradise Found” runway show. (Photo by JP Yim/Getty Images for Build Series)

The collection is mainstream-accessible, fusing extreme American normcore (white dad sneakers and cargo shorts) with Japanese streetwear-inspired hoodies and denim. Aoki worked with popular graffiti artist David Choe as well.

Watch the fashion show below:

For as much as the clothes represent Aoki’s global perspective (he says pocket placements and materials he saw in Japan inspired him), it also represents the state of American politics.

Jackets are emblazoned with the national anthem’s “Land of the free,” and screen-printed shirts and hoodies say “Paradise” and “Any means necessary.” There are also shirts featuring palm trees made of razor blades and barbed wire, and teeth-baring guard dogs.

A model at the Steve Aoki and Build Series Dim Mak Collection “Paradise Found” runway show. (Photo by JP Yim/Getty Images for Build Series)

“When we were creating this mood board, obviously on our minds was the Trump presidency and this regression, this state of chaos and how to find paradise through this difficult era we’re in. The imagery is based around that,” Aoki says.

Political fashion has been something of a theme during the past year on international runways, eliciting both approval and eye rolls from fashion critics.

Some applaud a designer’s ambition to promote progressiveness via T-shirts. Others say time is better spent actually protesting (and sometimes those protests happen right on the runway, unplanned). Still, fashion has done its part to put its money where its mouth is, at least for organizations such as Planned Parenthood.

Steve Aoki at his Dim Mak Collection “Paradise Found” runway show and Kolony album release event at the Build Studio on July 18, 2017, in New York City. (Photo by JP Yim/Getty Images for Build Series)

Aoki, well known for his cake-throwing antics and signature long black hair (he says he won’t soon cut it unless he becomes a monk) has produced five collections for his men’s clothing line, the Dim Mak Collection. His most recent, shown during fall-winter New York Fashion Week in February, received mixed reviews. (Vogue said it had doubtless appeal. Vice said it was confused.)

Models at the Steve Aoki and Build Series Dim Mak Collection runway show. (Photo by JP Yim/Getty Images for Build Series)

When asked whether he thinks statement T-shirts and politically inspired fashion can inspire effective change, Aoki said, “I think it’s just the expression of what’s happening around us now, at least for me. I want to feel something before I create the mood board.”

Aoki continued: “There’s all this s*** we have to deal with throughout the day. Every day we keep looking for our pursuit of happiness.”

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