Some dismiss fashion as being only skin-deep, as superficial and irrelevant, a fantasy at best, exploitative and anti-feminist at worst, and there are aspects of this that are absolutely true.
But it is also true that fashion can change attitudes, it can help us reflect, and it empowers us to be our true selves and a positive influence on the lives of others. Empowerment is all about confidence, and fashion is an amazing tool to reflect that, and something that we have seen continually cropping up in its own universal language.
A literal display of this language has been slogan tees, which have been re-contextualised on the catwalk. Nowhere could this women-friendly message be read more loudly and clearly than at Dior for Spring 2016, where Maria Grazia Chiuri was making a pointed statement as the first woman to hold the creative director position in the company’s 70-year history. Paying tribute to the writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who was in attendance at the show in Paris, Chiuri included tees in the collection that were printed with a line from one of the author’s speeches, ‘We Should All Be Feminists’, a feminist message which she continued for Spring 2018 too.
Prabal Gurung also turned out feminist tees for his Fall 2017 show finale, and Jonathan Simkhai gifted his front row attendees with tees reading ‘Feminist AF’ during the same season. Adam Lippes’ models carried Planned Parenthood signs for Fall 2017, while Chanel declared that a woman can be feminine and feminist, just like stated on the banners carried by Gisele Bündchen and Cara Delevingne for Spring 2015. So, regardless of whether these messages are genuine calls to action, or merely for the attention, they will continue to remain as a wearable statement of solidarity and female empowerment.
Beyond feminist tees, female voices are certainly ringing a little louder at the helm of fashion, with established names like Miuccia Prada, Diane Von Furstenberg, Victoria Beckham, Tory Burch, and Stella McCartney becoming household names with ultra-successful fashion empires. Miuccia Prada in particular, has a significant past as a feminist activist, and has always considered fashion as a sum-up of architecture, art and cinema. Her keywords are, revolutionise, amaze and dare, using her subtle irony. For Spring 2014, for instance, she asked some young Mexican murals artists to ‘represent the essence of femininity’, and pay homage to a strong and fierce woman, resulting in a show which was a sophisticated manifesto of feminist power.
Just like the young girls who choose to wear their clothes, these designers evoke the freedom to decide what to do with their life and what they want to be, beyond stereotypes. A sense of power and unity is being relayed to a new generation, whether as Kendall Jenner reimagined at Rosie the Riveter, or through the imagery of strong and smart women fronting campaigns.
‘There is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish.’