By Margretta Sowah
Twitter – @bohomags
Once upon a time it was easy to spot an honest person – they exuded purpose. In the 21st century of political correctness, being honest is a double edge sword. Look at it this way; if integrity and fairness were as celebrated and engaged with as war, the world would be a different place.
The honest truth: Feminism is far from its full actualisation. Can fashion aid in the advancement of this honest cause; being the Mecca of expressionism expressed, in conceptualised styli-fication? – talk about a mouthful! Let’s explore.
Act like a woman
When a woman compliments another woman it can be taken as shade. When a man compliments a woman, he is taken seriously. How does that work? Fashion is intrinsically feminine – the advertisement is geared to prickling women’s sensors, educing an almost septic reaction; the hand reaching for the credit card, a gush instils as the bag handle does a body exchange.
Yes, fashion is feminine. But is it feminist? Not to go into an issue much more complex than the average trending topic, feminism is the right and acknowledgement of equality over both genders. This is referring to not only social issues (raising a family on their own, personal safety, allowing for political correctness etc) but psychological thought patterns as well. The last headlining feministic stunt in fashion was CHANEL’s Paris Fashion Week show in 2014. Top models such as Gisele Bündchen and Cara Delevingne walked down the runway, asking for change over designer microphones.
Society as a whole is for feminism, I believe, as mothers are the matriarchal image of the female spirit… perhaps that is where we get our wires crossed. Women in the 21st century do not want to be just mothers. We want – no deserve – to have it all; at least how men are seen to have. The problem is putting these two worlds together – having a family and being part of a system or being the ‘woman most envied’; all aided by brand [x] perfume No.69. You can’t be vain and loving at the same time, right?
These opposing images make for an interesting and almost comical reaction to fashion in feminism. Since the burning of the bra – or at least Madonna’s Jean Paul Gaultier cone bra from the Blond Ambition tour of 1990 (I was only one at the time!); fashion has always been a tool at our disposal. Whether this power pushes for societal changes or personal expression is yet to be seen in any other form but misunderstanding by already set standards.
Think like a man
Women’s rights are a huge driving force for societal changes as are male rights too… so what about the transgender issues? Surely feminism, in its purest form, is to protect and respect the rights and wishes of men who are now women also? Does it work that way?
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: the industry is perhaps one of the few platforms we have to express opinions. We need advocates from all subcultures and markets to fight this problem. What can’t be done about this is nothing. The gay and lesbian community is a big part of the fashion economy, with glitterati’s like Brian Boy & André Leon Talley being public fashion and cultural figures in their own right.
Their voices on feminism issues are invaluable. Men are seen as go-getters, always on the hunt, – check out my post on the Male Model Stereotype – succeeding by any means possible (survival of the fittest or finest? A discussion for another time).
It’s no secret men dominate the industry with most designers of womenswear being male (over 65%). We are used to this. We don’t question it. Houses like Prada and Versace come from male conceptions, being adaptive as the years have past. Women such as Miuccia Prada, Diane Von Furstenberg, Stella McCartney, Donna Karen and even Mary Katrantzou are pushing for the acknowledgement (and equal pay) of female designers in any market.
One writer wrote in their article Are Fashion and Feminism compatible; “Fashion is, by its nature, entirely bipolar. You can love it, live for it; invest all your time/money/energy in it, but clearly what it says today will in no way reflect what it says in six months’ time. Indeed, surely the entire point of fashion is that it mustn’t really believe in anything…” (via The Guardian).
Whether or not the author’s opinion is valid, it sure makes for an interesting point. It is not fashion that gives us something to believe in but us that gives fashion its meaning. Never forget that. If we believe fashion is not feminist then it won’t be.
Fashion in the future
If you follow Pantone on social media you would have seen their Colour of the Year release. For 2016 the colour(s) of the year are Rose Quartz and Serenity. To the untrained eye these colours are just baby pink and baby blue, but those in the industry see a link between society’s outcry for gender-equality, even if it starts from something as simple (and effective) as colour.
The colour of the year, explained by Pantone, is: “A symbolic color selection; a color snapshot of what we see taking place in our culture that serves as an expression of a mood and an attitude. In many parts of the world we are experiencing a gender blur as it relates to fashion, which has in turn impacted color trends throughout all other areas of design.
This more unilateral approach to color is coinciding with societal movements toward gender equality and fluidity, the consumer’s increased comfort with using color as a form of expression, a generation that has less concern about being typecast or judged and an open exchange of digital information that has opened our eyes to different approaches to color usage.”
The most important point to take out is consumers hold the key to changes. That’s right. You and I hold the power to change how things are sold to us. Will it be enough to break the line of equality and fairness? We can only tell one stitch (and swipe) at a time.
If fashion is meant to be an expressive force, let’s make sure what we are expressing is the truth – even if it’s honestly ugly.