Fashion has continuously been a personal style statement for the wearer, voicing their opinion and the choices that they make but this year ‘fashion activism’ has taken many forms and is being carried out in the name of a number of progressive causes. Slogan-splashed T-shirts in this age of social media is resonating amongst the millennials who want to make their voice heard.
The new age of political consciousness is being characterized by a combination of activist slogans and open declaration of one’s views on social media and all through this, the questions of designers engaging in this debate has time and again re-emerged. While on one hand, the brands and retailers who reach through their products have the potential of causing political debates, on the other hand, the challenge of being stuck on one side has always crept. Though earlier brands getting involved with politics was a no-no, with the election of 2016 and the Brexit, things changed. Now designers and brands are no longer shying away from making a political comment, and more importantly their opinion is also being heard. By and large, these political statements by designers have been pushed through various causes:
The controversial US Presidential Election
By and large Trump’s Presidency and the immigration ban have sparked many retailers, brands and designers to relay their thoughts through their fashion offering. Designers such as Jeremy Scott, Alice + Olivia, Prabal Gurung, Jenny Peckham, Joanna Coles, etc. have splashed their opinions and political statements through their collections during the New York Fashion Week 2017. One such prominent New York designer has been Prabal Gurung, who had created a T-shirts collection for Hillary Clinton’s campaign, after which he had used the aftermath of the election to inspire his current collection that was showcased during the NYFW 2017.
|Brands that have made strong statements through fashion|
|Name of the Designer||Designers’ Collections|
|Talbot Runhof||Collection includes T-shirts, emblazoned with familiar words like, ‘Persist’, ‘Lie To Me’, ‘Unprecedented’, and Donald Trump’s favourite Twitter catch phrase, ‘Sad’, written in texturized tiles.|
|Tommy Hilfiger, Thakoon, Prabal Gurung, Phillip Lim, Dior and DvF||Included white bandanas on the fashion show which is associated with the hashtag #TiedTogether, a symbol of inclusivity and acceptance.|
|Dior||T-shirts screen printed with: ‘We Should All Be Feminists’ and ‘Dio(R)evolution’ were sold and proceeds went to Rihanna’s Clara Lionel Foundation, which fights against Injustice, Inequality, and Poverty, and promotes access to education.|
|Ashish Gupta||T-shirts included slogans like, ‘More Glitter, Less Twitter.’|
|Public School||T-shirts included slogans such as ‘We Need Leaders’ and ‘Make America New York’.|
|Creatures of Comfort||The collection included a graphic sweatshirt featuring a message of unity and equality that should transcend partisanship: ‘We Are All Human Beings’.|
|Christian Siriano||T-shirts include slogans such as ‘People Are People’.|
|Cushnie et Ochs||T-shirts slogans such as ‘The Future is Female’.|
|Milly||Their collection is called ‘Fractured’, with slogans on T-shirts such as ‘Unbreakable’ and ‘Steinem AF’.|
|Cinq a Sept||‘I Love Everyone’ T-shirts made it clear that inclusivity and acceptance are values close to this designer’s heart.|
|Prabal Gurung||T-shirts slogans, such as ‘We Will Not Be Silenced’, ‘Yes, We Should All Be Feminists’, ‘Girls Just Want To Have Fundamental Rights’, ‘The Future Is Female’ became popular.|
One of the foremost examples of fashion activism has been Christian Dior’s, whose first collection of T-shirts with the slogan ‘We Should All Be Feminists’ became a rage in the market. Dior’s T-shirts collection has been at the forefront of pro-feminism with ‘Nasty Woman’ tees, following not far behind, which has reportedly raised more than US $ 100,000 for Planned Parenthood. The US $ 25 T-shirt produced by Nasty Woman + Co. have been inspired by Donald Trump’s description of Hillary Clinton during the third presidential debate and it has given 50 per cent of its proceeds to Planned Parenthood. Not far behind are many designers who are going all pro-feminism. One such is Jonathan Simkhai, who during the NYFW, wore a ‘Feminist AF’ T-shirt making his political statement clear and crisp to the audiences.
While the above two are just a few of the causes, there are many such as refugee crisis, supporting women’s march, etc. that are igniting the runway and more importantly the streets, with not just models sashaying the collection but common people who are supporting these stance and opinions. Dior marked the arrival in stores of Maria Grazia Chiuri’s (Creative Director, Womenswear) first ready-to-wear collection with a global retail push up combining pop-ups, partnerships with key retailers and special in-store merchandising. The luxury brand has also given proceeds of the sales ‘We Should All Be Feminists’ T-shirts sold in Dior boutiques and dior.com to Rihanna’s non-profit called Clara Lionel Foundation.
Though 2017 is seeing the rise in fashion activism, long back in 2009, Alexander McQueen made his voice heard by commissioning a gigantic scrapheap for his ‘Horn of Plenty’ collection, as he made a statement on waste and pollution without resorting to anything as literal as a slogan T-shirt. While brands such as Gogo Graham, Eckhaus Latta, Charles Jeffrey, Simone Rocha, Grace Wales Bonner, etc. are making a conscious effort to showcase a diverse cast of models, including transgender, many others are challenging representation, which has inherently been political.
Moving forward as there is a growing pressure for brands to become transparent and connect with consumers, it becomes even more clearer for designers to voice their opinions and take stance on matters which include politics or human rights.