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.
Or more over, a selling power. With the rise of Instagram advertising and #spon posts, cool has never been more popular.
Or more expensive.
There has always been a seductive allure around looking good; looking cool. It's a recognised level of social status from us all - the ultimate effortless effort in one's appearance.
Currently, cool centres around Man Repeller adored frilly, boxy and oversized shirts. Ranging from bright magenta pink to office whites and blue; pinstriped, embroidered with snatches of phrases (H&M currently has one with 'Girls Bite Back' in red on the cuffs). Blouses with ruffle cuffs and deconstructed openings, slashed down to the collarbone and exposing your décollectage. Colours revolving around primarily millennial pink and bright yellow, which I must mention of Topshop finally introducing a pink suit. The shade? It's millennial pink, of course and it looks delightful. Contrast summer looks with vintage blue levi's and red sling back heels, because pops of colour have never looked so good. See Pandora Sykes' report for more; right here.
Slouchy, awkward length Topshop culottes and mules in every colour of the rainbow. Oversized earrings made with threads and plastic jewels, the type of costume jewellery we were all rolling our eyes at ten years ago. But God, they're just so cool right now, right?
The teeny square sunglasses like Bella Hadid has been recently wearing, or Kaia Gerber (Cindy Crawford’s daughter, yes in those Marc Jacobs beauty ads). The new age of models have cool down to pat. An example best loved by fashion bloggers is Elsa Hosk; baker boy hats perched on top of natural tousled hair, wide leg jeans and 70's style denim like those seen on the Marc Jacobs runway, ready-to-wear catwalk looks right down to the dainty strappy sandals.
European holiday has never been more in. Look to Lucy Williams at www.fashionmenow.co.uk for more, as Lucy does it sp well. The style I'm talking about? That’s beach hair and Parisian dresses, the type frequently seen on Jeanne Damas, best showcased by her company Rouje. Cool is espadrille sandals with ribbon ties wrapped around ankles and trailing up calves.
But it's also...
London girl sports luxe; denim skirts with fishnet tights, bleached hair and pastel coloured hair best done at Bleach London. Mascara done thick, ideal for spider lashes by breaching the regulations of natural shades, hues of pink or blue are more fondly used as seen on Adwoa Aboah at the Gurls Talk event in London. 90’s reinvention trainers (God I hope the 90's stick around in style) like the Reebok classic instead of sling backs, but in canvas tote bags you may find them if they feel so inclinded, because a woman can be prepared and look cool. In addition to this, summer cool means linen print trousers, millennial pink jeans or in soft lilacs as seen in Urban Outfitters. The cool that somehow morphs into New York/Brooklyn cool, maybe it’s the art scene, maybe it’s the lifestyle and the liberal values, who knows?
But what’s most noticed by the Currency Of Cool is that it's now viewed as different forms and different manners. We no longer have as rigid a ‘one size fits all’ (haven’t you seen the rise of plus-size models and roar of diversity rising on the catwalk? Isn't it SO thrilling!). Cool can be anything and everything, because what makes cool is usually the way the person looks all together. Millenials and those in generation Z are pushing the boundaries, being more open with their lifestyles than the Boomers before. And gender fluid dressing, as male MUA’S rise further in popularity, I hear you say?
Well anybody who’s anybody knows it isn’t a straight couple on the cover of American Vogue wearing the same suit.
Certain behaviour can occur when one wears a lot of colour and embraces age. Now 21 might sound young to a lot (and old to a faithful few) but this girl has been getting mellow and dressing in more yellow. … Continue reading →
I thought my level of uncomfortability over fake empowerment reached its height with Taylor Swift’s depiction of girl power in THAT Bad Blood music video. It turns out, Kendall Jenner can make something worse.
If you have yet to see the new Pepsi ad, encouraging people to ‘live for now moments’ is cringe inducing as one would expect from a soda company (it’s basically sugar and doesn’t taste all that, so they’ve got to make it shiny and new each time to attract our attention). But it’s problematic, for a number of reasons.
In the advert, Kendall Jenner is taking part in a photoshoot wearing a blonde wig and generally looking gorgeous and looking like a model she arguably is. She notices a protest outside but hangs back, posing some more. Then an attractive male cellist player comes along and they make eyes at each other. This is A Moment. He nods encouraging toward the protest. Suddenly, Jenner realises she too can be a part of this protest now. With the approval and encouragement of a boy, she rips off her blonde wig and smears her lipstick, yet her brown locks are still perfectly undone and the lipstick wipes off flawlessly. The blonde wig? Why it’s thrown into a black woman’s arms as Kendall struts off to take part of The Cause. Yet this cause looks oddly similar to many Black Lives Matter protests, just more bubble gum and cutesy. So like, why is Kendall going and not the unnamed black woman?
Oh and the sign’s all have the same tagline of ‘Join The Conversation’. On blue background signs. Because you can LOOK like you’re doing something hastag iconic, but don’t actually go out on a limb and make a stand over a political issue. That’s taking it too far. Stay #onbrand with marketing colours and keep your likability (read; markets) like both Pepsi and Kendall Jenner have done.
When Kendall waltzes through the crowd in impeccably double denim (also blue, hey Pepsi) it is a simple nod at the attractive cellist and she continues to surge to the front. People notice. They sense that Something Is Happening. Kendall breaks away from the crowd. She confidently and oh so bravely walks towards the line of police officers. A POC woman is looking on in awe, because when really making a difference, it’s only wealthy white women who can do it? Wearing her hijab, she eagerly lines her camera out to take a photo of this Iconic Moment. The cop takes a sip from the can and people cheer enthusiastically. This is it! Peace has been created!
And the moral of the ad? We should all be like Kendall Jenner; white, privileged, wealthy, slim, successful, young and most importantly, brave enough to take a stand. To be an ally to the movement. But wait.
Here’s why this ad is problematic; (if you haven’t picked up on my sarcasm yet, you’re in for a ride).
Firstly, Kendall Jenner is white. Yet she is the one that ‘saves’ the protest as she coolly and peacefully hands a cop a can of Pepsi. Forget peace talks! Share a Pepsi! Donald Trump worrying you because you feel like your very existence will be erased? Don’t sweat it, someone might give him a Pepsi! Brexit talks getting tense? They’ll pass round a six pack of Pepsi!
So to make a change, be white.
Secondly, why be an ally, when you could take over and end a protest conflict-free? As this tweet shows in a rose-tinted-window-smashing way, once you see that you can’t unsee it. Not only does Jenner end the protest, but she also manages to make it all about her. All POC should bow to her, for she is The Saviour. This is not how to be an ally and help POC – it’s undermining their fight by morphing it into a white issue, when it really isn’t a white issue.
Thirdly, the fact that the cop only then nods to his friends as if to say ‘hey, these protesters might be just like us!’ Because an attractive, commercialised white woman has handed them a soda, so like, why not think human beings might be the same? What a startling new discovery! Dare we say… Pepsi and Kendall Jenner… just ended racism in one single swoop?
It’s around here I’m meant to say ‘when will your fav EVER’ am I right?
By commercialising protests this ad, both Pepsi and Kendall Jenner are doing a disservice to all forms of demonstration. Through commercialisation, it loses its very nature of seriousness. The essence of consumerisation is something that takes away the human part of something else. The idea of protest is brought down to a mind-numbingly playful level. The idea of ‘why take part of a protest, when you can buy a can of Pepsi?’ is placed in the minds of the audience. The core fact that this is a reality for millions of people, protesting the right to live their lives they way they should be able to, without fear or intimidation.
Kendall Jenner fake-solving an issue with a can of soda is insulting, demeaning and frankly, far too fucking easy. It makes people think ‘why cause all this fuss?’ if things are so easy to solve. But spoiler; they are not easy to solve. At all. There are years of oppression to work through and understand, to be able to right across the board the state of equal rights. You cannot cutely solve racism. And you cannot make it into a mockery through a feel-good advert.
And you really can’t do it through a white owned soda company.
And as cringe-inducing as this ad is, it was also released at possibly the worst time ever - the anniversary of Martin Luther King's death. And all I can really think is - are you kidding me?
If Pepsi did indeed wish to make an advert to show their solidarity and support in a frightening political time, why pick a white wealthy model? Why not have someone who actually uses their platform to speak up on social issues. Because really...
When has Kendall Jenner ever spoke up about social issues?
Encouraging people to 'go vote' and leaving to speak up about supporting Hillary Clinton until the final days of the election, really isn't cutting it. Especially when you have a platform as big as Jenner does.
Let's not praise someone for doing the very least thing possible, call it groundbreaking and make everyone feel good about an ad that does nothing but sell sugar in a can. Let's not let this pass over, because there's a level of responsibility when you have a platform and do the whole 'show not tell' on important social and political issues. You don't get praised for noticing.
People shouldn't be thankful you got a pay-check mimicking their fight for basic human rights.
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