With the high street becoming overrun with Girl Power inspired slogan t-shirts this summer, taking inspiration directly from Maria Grazia Chiuri debut Dior collection: I wonder, how feminist is the fashion world, exactly?
The fashion industry has seen a surge of Girl Power and the reintroduction of pink as a staple colour, as millennial pink graces all areas of the catwalk and our Instagram feeds. Our t-shirts are now emboldened with feminist slogans and girl gang mantras. We use #squad in our captions to do our best Bad Blood music video. Most notably of this is Chiuri’s debut design, a t-shirt with the slogan ‘We Should All Be Feminists’. The tee was inspired by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's TEDx talk and essay, both of the same name. Knock-offs come in at £10 on Etsy, as Topshop sell ‘Feminist’ branded sweatshirts for £24. So what exactly is the price for feminism? $710 or £24?
And how exactly did this movement become fashionable?
It is a function of fashion to reflect our time and in it, our desires at its fundamental element. Social media has given us the opportunity to delve into worlds previously unknown; learn of cultures and lives around the world. However, this has also given way for cultural and social issues to become trendable - rather than something more long standing. In fashion terms, trends come and go with the seasons, so should feminism really be treated as such?
Couldn’t this movement be like the LBD and actually, stay?
Moreover, we have to analyse whether or not the fashion industry and high fashion houses are truly championing feminism as a movement, or treating it like a trend. It appears as though Chanel did so back in Spring/Summer’15, with a catwalk march protest seemingly for women’s rights. Signs were held aloft by models read ‘History is Her Story’, ‘Ladies First’ and ‘Women’s Rights Are More Than Alright’. Well thank god for Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld to say so, right?
It’s been three years since Emma Watson was announced as the UN Women Goodwill Ambassador and graced the cover of ELLE UK. 2014 was dubbed the Year of the Feminist, with many big fashion houses getting behind the cause like Chanel. In their S/S’15 campaign, Celiné had Joan Didion as their campaign star, a feminist icon and a writer who embodies a level of cool we all crave to reach. Since Phoebe Philo took over in 2008, the house has become a staple for thought-provoking campaign images. As Chiuri keeps feminism alive in the fashion stratosphere, eagerly helped by high street stores like Topshop and H&M, we have to start looking past the printed tee.
How feminist is it...
when those same t-shirts are being made by a woman being paid pitiful money in a third world country, in appalling conditions, who has yet to see any benefit of feminism in her lifetime? As I.D proclaimed “fashion is big business” so really how much of a movement is this fashionable feminism, as the industry would like us to think (and shop). As reported by I.D, ‘for the first time since the Spice Girls, Girl Power has a marketing sweet spot’. And it appears its beginning to sour.
As Gaby Basora at Tucker commented, “it’s not only the woman who wears the clothes who makes a difference. It’s the women who sew the clothes, the pattern makers and the women who go off to work to support their families.” If we are to support our fellow women, the sisterhood that’s being reborn with each Girl Power mantra t-shirt sold, then shouldn’t that mean every type of woman? Dior may now be taking the helm of the high fashion movement, but lest we not forget Dior’s advert campaigns and catwalks have been predominately white.
The label still lacks diversity, both in race and body shape.
As Susie Lau best said on the Chanel S/S’15 shows
“whatever Lagerfeld’s true stance on feminism is, it is difficult to believe the conviction of a uniform of women, held up by an unrealistic standard of beauty, waving such banners whilst wearing clothes that are prohibitively expensive.”
We cannot claim a human rights movement for fashion, if we do not fully show and believe in the core values. A feminism for the catwalk, will not truly be feminism unless it is intersectional. Many things we women today take for granted, was built on the backs of those who fought hard for our rights. Were they catwalk models, of aesthetically pleasing statue, holding aloft banners that read ‘boys should get pregnant too’?
I think not. If feminism is to stay in the mainstream and continue its fourth wave fight, then we need to do more Women’s Marches and less actions designed purely for zeitgeist approval.
#Squad pictures included.
This post was written for Obsessory.com