Feminism all the rage as resistance takes to catwalk
Indie and established brands are incorporating political statements with latest looks
Feminism is the overriding trend that will define the coming season – rather than a colour or a shape. Give a damn T-shirt (above), €43, Deep End Club
“Our voice is the only thing that will protect us” goes the phrase emblazoned on T-shirts at Jeremy Scott’s recent show. And the voices have been loud and clear. Giving a whole new meaning to the oft-used sartorial term “statement-making”, designers used the catwalk as a political megaphone this season.
Ranging from the slight – The Row had the word “hope” stitched on the cuffs of their shirts – to the sublime with Ashish showed an entire line of sequined outfits embellished with political messages – the overriding trend that will define the coming season, isn’t a colour, shape, or decade but a movement.
What began last season with a T-shirt slogan that read “we should all be feminists” at creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri’s inaugural Dior show, displays of female empowerment proliferated across the catwalks. Missoni entered the feminist fashion fray for their finale giving each model a pink, knitted hat to wear – a luxe version of the homespun “p***y power” beanies worn at women’s marches in January. Designer Prabal Gurung stirred up the hype, in which Bella Hadid led the finale in a white T-shirt with a slogan that read “the future is female”. Other models took to the catwalks in positive slogans such as “nevertheless, she persisted,’ and “girls just want to have fundamental rights”.
Fashion has always been used as a political tool, it just happens this season feminism and fashion is a lot more overt. Even some of the world’s most prominent fashion influencers are dressing for resistance on the streets with designer protest wear.
These sorts of displays are a contemporary way of giving visibility to timely, important causes but it also leads to certain questions of what’s strategic and what’s authentic. And if the political T-shirts aren’t part of a larger campaign, does a feminist slogan accomplish anything more than “hashtag” activism?
We cannot deny the cultural influence luxury brands and fashion insiders wield and the trickledown effect – the feminist fashion trend could be helping to engage women who might not normally be receptive to any kind of socially progressive movement. Being truly influential however, either as a designer or a fashion insider, means being an incentive for change – inspiring people to donate or protest.
Using fashion as their battle call, indie brands are adopting wit and digital platforms to promote their versions of modern feminism and protest wear. Artist Laurie Lee creates hand-painted leather jackets, with messages like “so not yours”, “girl almighty” and “not your baby love”. Lapp the Brand has used the popularity of streetwear that combines style with ethics in their line of hoodies featuring the slogan “this p***y grabs back” – a nod to Rihanna’s rallying call at the New York women’s march.
Another celebrity-approved protest wear maker Deep End Club, headed up by DJ Tennessee Thomas and modelled by style icon Alexa Chung, has a range of T-shirts with slogans such as “in solidarity” and “give a damn”.
Closer to home, it’s more about actions than gimmicks regardless of the Instagram glare of fashion week. Evoking the long lineage of political solangeering, the Repeal project continues to inspire others. Embracing the DIY element made famous by Vivienne Westwood’s political T-shirts in the 1970s, cross-stitch workshops that enable participants to create their own slogan badges are gaining popularity. Run by Love Lace Space, all profits go to the Abortion Rights Campaign.
Also, the HunReal Issues website enlisted street artist Maser to design a repeal the eighth T-shirt but has now added sweaters and leggings to the line, with all profits going to the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment. Meanwhile, Love and Robots partnered with the Abortion Rights Campaign to design a “repeal” necklace.