Fashion Activism: Authentic Statement or Trend?
Fashion is seen as a women’s’ world. It is a business and workplace where women are in the majority. Even the mention of fashion provides the image of women, cheapest and perhaps Meryl in Devil Wears Prada – but that’s a different story.
Around 555,000 people are employed in fashion, textiles and fashion retail in the United Kingdom. The womenswear industry is valued at around 510 billion pounds, compared to the menswear industry which is valued at 330 billion pounds. Although women make up the majority of the workforce in the fashion industry, women are still paid 15% than their male counterparts.
Late last year Dior started their Dio(r)evolution. The first female creative director was named and Maria Grazia Chiuri embarked on a revolution within the house. Models walked down the catwalk in fencing-themed waistcoats and jackets. Outside of the Couture catwalk came a t-shirt emblazed with the statement “We Should all be Feminists”.
Versions have popped up all over the show, including the exact same t-shirt on Etsy for £12. Topshop have now created a jumper and t-shirt with the slogan “Feminist” emblazed across the front. It would seem that those that wanted to buy the reported £700 Dior shirt, didn’t have too. But is anyone actually willing to buy the cheaper version? It boils down to the question. Are celebrities and influencers buying the Dior Feminist shirt as a genuine political statement, or just because it’s from Dior?
The t-shirt statement was taken the 2014 essay by Chimamandra Ngozi Adichie’s essay; “We Should all be Feminists”. The shirt has caused riffs between the industry, in a photograph of the gifted shirt posted on Susie Bubbles Instagram, Instagram user @rihannasforehead stated: “Charging $700 for a t-shirt and none of the funds go towards women’s right organisations, tell us more about who Chiuri isn’t shamelessly profiting from co-opting feminism through yer disgustingly uninclusive brand of pretty white feminism?”
Before last week there was no co-optimisation between Dior and a women’s organisation. Considering the statement on the shirt, surely it would have been easy to provide a substantial amount to a women’s charity.
However, after numerous call-outs against the shirt and many boycotting the possession of the shirt, it was revealed last week that the shirts will become available in Dior retail boutiques worldwide from May. As well as this, in a statement from Dior a “portion” of the proceeds will be donated to the Clara Lionel Foundation, Rhianna’s non-profit organisation.
It wasn’t just Dior that created a stir with political statements being embossed on a collection or spoke out against numerous political events last year. Christopher Bailey of Burberry joined over 100 business leaders in signing an anti-Brexit letter in the London Times.
Stella McCartney splashed female empowerment slogans such as; “Thanks Girls” over her lace and cotton loungewear. At the Christian Siriano show at New York Fashion Week, a t-shirt with the statement “People are People” was sent down the runway, all proceeds to the shirt went to ACLU, and led to the t-shirt being sold out around the world.
It seems that political statement has now become stylish, and more of a fashion statement than a true political stance. It begs the question that will this stay forever within the fashion industry, as fashion and politics are inevitably connected, or will it become a trend like others such as ruffles and gingham that will just pass over?
Truly boiling down to the question. Is it an authentic statement if none of the proceeds of clothing doused with political statements goes towards helping those they state they stands up for?
Written by Daisy Scott