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Recap: New York Fashion Week: Rihanna, Diversity, and Drag Queens

(CNN) -- Once an insular industry trade event, New York Fashion Week has transformed into a high-priced, fast-paced, public-facing marketing opportunity. Shows are livestreamed, Instagrammed and live-tweeted, immediately transmitting what happens on the runway to the masses.

With social media helping to democratize the industry, conversations surrounding fashion week aren't always centered on the clothing. Here are five of the wider conversations spurred by the Spring-Summer 2019 event.

Collina Strada - Runway - February 2018 - New York Fashion Week
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 08: A model walks the runway at the Collina Strada AW18 Collection during New York Fashion Week on February 8, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by JP Yim/Getty Images)

Diversity on the runway
The fashion industry is, like our culture at large, increasingly engaged in discussions around representation. More than ever, designers are being forced to consider who should be seen -- or excluded -- on the runway and why.

Chromat founder Becca McCharen-Tran has long championed broader inclusion by casting a diverse range of femme, female-identified and gender non-binary models on her runways, featuring people of all different shapes, sizes, ages and abilities. This season, her models wore swimwear and athletic apparel, inspired by the idea of wearing T-shirts at pool parties in an effort to hide one's body.

Runway - September 2018 - New York Fashion Week: The Shows
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 12: An aerial view of models walking the runway for Disney Villains X The Blonds during New York Fashion Week: The Shows at Gallery II at Spring Studios on September 12, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images for NYFW: The Shows)

Elsewhere, British artist Patrick Church confronted ageism with a series of printed bodysuits, crop tops and skin-tight wares that were modeled exclusively by older women. Tome's models -- wearing sustainable menswear-inspired pieces -- also represented a variety of different age groups. Meanwhile

Shanel Campbell, who has dressed the likes of Solange and Teyana Taylor, made her event debut with an all-black cast of models, and a predominantly black team working behind the scenes. And Marco Marco Underwear, which presented everything from evening gowns to sheer bodysuits, hired an all-trans lineup. The show reportedly made history by assembling the largest group of trans men ever used in a runway show at New York Fashion Week.

MESSIKA Party, NYC Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2019 Launching Of The Messika By Gigi Hadid New Collection
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 12: Teyana Taylor attends the MESSIKA Party, NYC Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2019 Launch Of The Messika By Gigi Hadid New Collection at Milk Studios on September 12, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Gonzalo Marroquin/Getty Images for Messika)

T-shirts as political billboards
Fashion has always been political. But in recent years, designers have become less discreet with their words.

Jeremy Scott, for example, sent out a 62-look show (seemingly aimed at club kids) featuring words like "resist" and "riot" in a comic-book font. The designer then took his bow in a T-shirt urging attendees to contact their senators in protest against Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the US Supreme Court.

attends as Vanity Fair and Saks Fifth Avenue celebrate Vanity Fair's Best-Dressed 2018 at Manhatta on September 12, 2018 in New York City.

"Project Runway" alumnus Christian Siriano may best known for gowns and evening dresses, but he too found space in his lineup for a political T-shirt. It directed guests to "Vote For Cynthia," referring to New York's gubernatorial candidate, Cynthia Nixon, who was seated on the front row (and who was today defeated in the Democratic primary, despite Siriano's best efforts).

Kerby Jean-Raymond, of the buzzy label Pyer Moss, used slogans like "See Us Now?" in his range -- particularly potent, given that his brand is dedicated to celebrating and elevating the experiences of African Americans. One of his line's most talked-about designs was a simple graphic tee printed with the words "Stop Calling 911 On The Culture," a reference to recent high-profile incidents of unnecessary and racially motivated calls being made to US police. The $125 item went on to sell out within a day of release.

Pitch-perfect collaborations
With high fashion increasingly taking its cues from the streetwear market -- which prizes partnerships and "drops" -- it's no surprise that there were a number of collaborations on show.

FENTY PUMA by Rihanna Spring/Summer 2018 Collection - Runway + Atmosphere
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 10: Dilone the runway wearing Look 26 at the FENTY PUMA by Rihanna Spring/Summer 2018 Collection at Park Avenue Armory on September 10, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Brian Ach/Getty Images for FENTY PUMA By Rihanna)

Luxury label The Blonds, known for its over-the-top looks, partnered with Disney on a collection inspired by the studio's villains. Yes, Maleficent, Ursula and Cruella de Vil all got their runway moments on the backs of Paris Hilton, Leiomy Maldonado and Patrick Starr, among others.

Streetwear label Kith welcomed brands like Ugg, New Balance and Levi's to its roster of collaborators, in addition to producing collections for Tommy Hilfiger and Greg Lauren. In an unexpected twist, the label also unveiled a 24-look capsule collection with Versace, featuring fur jackets, sweatsuits, biker shorts and more.

The fashion show as 'happening'
With the over-proliferation of fashion shows and the growing role of social media, brands are opting for increasingly dramatic fashion week productions. What may have once been a simple catwalk show is now a high-wattage fete, complete with dancers, drones and live musicians.

A model walks the runway for TRESemme at Sally La Pointe NYFW SS18 on September 12, 2017 in New York City.

To that end, Telfar, winner of the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund award in 2017, held its show on a helipad near the East River. Featuring the likes of Selah Marley and Moses Sumney, and presided over by singer Ian Isiah and South African duo Faka, the event saw audiences watched behind a chain-link fence while performers roamed freely around a drum set.

New York label Opening Ceremony put on a performance -- though one of a different kind altogether. Founders Humberto Leon and Carol Kim recruited drag queen Sasha Velour to curate a line-up of performers to showcase the brand's new wares, including notable queens like Shea Coulee and Hungry, as well as non-drag talent like Christina Aguilera.

Ralph Lauren arguably went the biggest (it was the brand's 50th anniversary, after all). He took the industry to Central Park's Bethesda Terrace, where the likes of Hillary Clinton, Kanye West and Donna Karan listened to Oprah pay tribute to the designer. The fashion veteran also turned out a casting that spanned a range of ages and races, as well as a collection showing the company's breadth, from Polo Sport and RRL to women's evening wear.

Savage X Fenty Fall/Winter 2018 - Runway
BROOKLYN, NY - SEPTEMBER 12: Rihanna walks the runway for the Savage X Fenty Fall/Winter 2018 fashion show during NYFW at the Brooklyn Navy Yard on September 12, 2018 in Brooklyn, NY. (Photo by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images for Savage X Fenty )

Rihanna steals the spotlight
Rihanna closed out New York Fashion Week with a show for her lingerie and intimates line, Savage X Fenty. And while the event started late (the organizers were waiting for editors to arrive from the delayed Marc Jacobs show), it has attracted almost universal praise.

Savage X Fenty Fall/Winter 2018 - Runway
BROOKLYN, NY - SEPTEMBER 12: Model Gigi Hadid poses on the runway for the Savage X Fenty Fall/Winter 2018 fashion show during NYFW at the Brooklyn Navy Yard on September 12, 2018 in Brooklyn, NY. (Photo by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images for Savage X Fenty)

The show dovetailed many of the week's trends: It was an elaborate production with dancers, runway choreography, an incredibly produced set and an expansive line-up of models representing a variety of colors and sizes -- including two pregnant models.

If Rihanna's celebrity glow wasn't enough, she also cast Bella and Gigi Hadid. With the livestream repeating lines like "We know beauty and brains are not mutually exclusive," and, "We know that we can be as competent in the boardroom as the bedroom," the entire production was -- as Rihanna herself called it when speaking with Vogue -- "a celebration of womanhood."

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