It’s a fashion statement: Designers use clothes to send political messages

Flavie de Germay

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PARIS — To live here, in the acknowledged fashion capital of the world, is to see people prominently wearing change — especially during Fashion Week.

On March 3, for the end of Dior’s spring 2017 collection show, 68 Christian Dior models wore the same blue beret. According to a story by the fashion reporter Erin Cunningham on the website Refinery29.com, creative director Grazia Chiuri chose the color blue as a “symbol of power, beauty, and spirituality that is employed for genderless outfits and to express differences.”

The fashion statement went beyond berets: As Cunningham reported, attendees found white bandannas on every seat with the words, “Feminist: A person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.”

It’s a message that is being heard increasingly by high school students as well.

“Lately, I feel like when I wear the clothes I picked out and the clothes I bought, I have an ocean of women standing behind me,” said Alix Vanpoperinghe, a senior at the American School of Paris.

“If I learned one thing as a teenager interested in the fashion industry, it’s that girls are powerful alone, but unstoppable together.”

Feminist fashion hasn’t stopped at the French border.

A sea of pink and pink pussyhats at the Women's March on Washington, D.C., on Jan. 21, 2017. Photo by Mobilus In Mobili at Wikimedia Commons/CC 2.0.

A sea of pink and pink pussyhats at the Women’s March on Washington, D.C., on Jan. 21, 2017. Photo by Mobilus In Mobili at Wikimedia Commons/CC 2.0.

Fashion has played a major role in U.S. presidential politics, with designers and brands including Tory Burch, Marc Jacobs, Public School and DKNY not only supporting Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in principle but creating clothing for her campaign, such as T-shirts with Clinton’s portrait and slogans such as “I’m With Her” and “Women’s Rights are Human Rights.”

On Jan. 21, the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration as U.S. president, an estimated 440,000 people marched in Washington to advocate for gender equality. Organizers of the Pussyhat Project in January estimated that 60,000 women knitted pink beanies with cat ears for use by marchers. The hats quickly became a symbol not only for the march in Washington but at other marches worldwide.

Pussyhat Project founder Jayna Zweiman said that the hats were “about women refusing to be erased from political discussion.”

Another fashion-as-politics moment took place on Feb. 28 during President Trump’s first address to the joint houses of Congress. In the audience, dozens of Democratic congresswomen, including Florida Democratic Rep. Lois Frankel, were wearing all white, the color of the American suffragette movement, as a silent message that congresswomen would stay focused on gender issues.

Tonight, Democratic Members will wear suffragette white to oppose Republican attempts to roll back women’s progress

Actress-model Doutzen Kroes poses for photographers before attending the Puma-x-Fenty fashion show on Sept.28. Photo by Nicole Kramer/American School of Paris.

Actress-model Doutzen Kroes poses for photographers at fashion week in Paris on Sept.28. Photo by Nicole Kramer/ASP.

While using fashion as political statement isn’t new, clues that it could be a big factor in last year’s political campaign in the U.S. were clear even before the fall fashion shows in Paris.

In a video for British Vogue last August, Emma Watson spoke with designers Stella McCartney, Erdem Moralioglu, Jonathan Saunders, and Bella Freud, asking their opinions on gender equality and what the industry could do to help.

“I think the fashion industry has a very big role to play, it has a huge voice,” McCartney said. In addition to helping shape women’s self-image and confidence, McCartney mentioned a range of issues where concrete action could help, from hiring more female CEOs, pushing for equal pay to boosting maternity and paternity leave.

Actress Jennifer Lawrence wears a Dior T-shirt on the cover of the February 2017 issue of Harper's Bazaar, a fashion magazine. Cover image/Fair Use exemption.

The cover of Harper’s Bazaar Germany’s February 2017 issue featured the American actress Jennifer Lawrence wearing a T-shirt with a feminist message. The magazine also reported on the “modern feminism” of the Dior show in a March 4 online story.

Younger feminists are getting used to fashion they can hear as well as see.

“Knowing that there is a strong body of women who stand for the rights of women, I too am motivated every day by them to speak louder, stand taller and wear (my) action,” said Caroline Maschka, a sophomore at the American School.

“Feminism isn’t just a craze or trend,” she added. “It’s a message the industry intertwines through its creations.”

—Featured photo: Models from Christian Dior’s Spring 2017 show by designer Maria Grazia Chiuri in signature blue, a color equated with “modern feminism.” Photo from Harper’s Bazaar Germany online at http://www.harpersbazaar.de/runway/paris-fashion-week-winter-2017-christian-dior/Fair Use exemption.

This content was created, produced and published by Global Student Square and is republished here with permission. See and support the work of Global Student Square at www.globalstudentsquare.org.

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One Response to “It’s a fashion statement: Designers use clothes to send political messages”

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