In The Houghton Girl, a short documentary style film released in time for Houghton’s Fall/Winter 2017 collection, the brand’s designer, Katharine Polk, says, “You select the people to be in your life. You can choose who is and who isn’t. That means you’re picking the best of the best humans to surround yourself with. These women are honestly the best of the best humans.” Featuring Polk plus nine of the industry’s current It Girls—including model Chloe Norgaard; Lulu Frost designer, Lisa Salzer; Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Morgan Kibby; Jenné Lombardo, co-founder of MILK MADE and founder of The Terminal Presents; and fashion consultant Kelly Francis—the latest collection is an ode to girl power and empowerment. In the movie, screened on Thursday, the women explore how they have dealt with the unrealistic standards and pressures placed on them by society, all while modeling looks from the brand’s new collection.
Polk first got the idea for a “fashion film” to take the place of a traditional runway show during Bridal Fashion Week after recently opening up about her her nine-year battle with anorexia. Enlisting the help of her friends and acquaintances, who’ve similarly grappled with personal issues and self-doubt, Polk placed the focus on the women rather than the clothes—a move unprecedented in the bridal world where the focus on finding that one dress can feel as important as finding the one.
Directed by Garen Barsegian and touching on topics ranging from body image, depression, and the pressure that comes with social media and needing to succeed, the 15-minute movie showcases how the subjects wrestle with insecurities in intimately moving conversations. Francis talks about the effect motherhood had on her body, while Dara Hart, Keyla Castillo, and Bianca Vesco—trainers at the NYC gym DogPound—open up about the pressure of constantly having their bodies on display for judgment. An especially moving fragment comes in the snippet featuring Salzer revealing her fight with depression. “My particular depression is about rumination and worrying. I have so much to be grateful for,” says Salzer before visibly tearing up. “I can really orchestrate my life the way I want it to be, except that part. Where you can’t control if you just feel sort of blue and you don’t know why.”
The film is not without the positive aspects that are typically associated with weddings, though; the ladies are seen expressing the things that they love most about their bodies during one particularly powerful segment and remaining humorous, refreshingly honest, and body-positive throughout the film. “I’ve never been a twig,” says Kibby at one point. “I am very much a Renaissance body in a Twiggy world.” Norgaard chimes in on the sentiment, saying, “I should probably go to the gym and tone a bit because I am getting older, but I am going to eat a fucking burger and keep it in my stomach.” As their showcase the looks throughout streets of New York, they emphasize how they wouldn’t have been able to get to a place of self-confidence without the people surrounding them. “These women epitomize what a Houghton Girl is. They are beautiful, loyal, loving, tough, sensitive, and most of all brave. I am proud to call them family and have them be a part of this journey with me. I believe that we can help others by drawing back the curtain and sharing our stories,” says Polk in the press release.
As for the collection, christened “Not Your Baby,” it was a similarly collaborative effort; Polk designed the looks with each unique woman in mind, also working with Lulu Frost on a custom capsule line of chokers and earrings for the film. Featuring Houghton’s quintessentially edgy and modern looks, perfect for the non-run-of-the-mill brides looking to stand out on their wedding day, this season saw a slew of metallic gowns, high-low pastel tulle skirts, overalls, an embroidered sequin bandeau, and a cashmere wide-leg pantsuit in addition to a selection of slogan sweaters and jackets (emblazoned with bold statements like “Fuck Boy,” “Hopeless Romantics,” and “Houghton Girl”). An intensely free-spirited aesthetic is at the core of the collection yet again, making it a perfect fit for the bride who marches to the beat of her own nuptial drum. After introducing a “Buy Now, Wear Now” collection at their last show, in another until-then-unprecedented move, certain pieces from the Fall/Winter 2017 line—notably including the limited-edition “Not Your Baby” silk baseball jacket that all 10 women were wearing at the screening—have similarly become available to order online following the event.
At a time when women constantly compare themselves to the photoshopped images of celebrities and models and filtered lives of their social media circle connections and are put under pressure of having the “best day of their life” on their wedding, this movie couldn’t have come sooner. But Polk has no illusions that women can be instantly empowered to love themselves. “My body changed tremendously and I love my body now, but that doesn’t mean that every single day I don’t stare at it and see things that I want to change. I definitely want to make it clear that these aren’t things you’re cured of,” she says in the film. “I am making things for women that I love, that I’m inspired by, and that’s what I want to do going forward.” And we’ll be there every step of the way watching.
See the powerful film below and check out the impossibly cool collection featuring the women in the slideshow below too.