23 Jul Are feminism and fashion compatible?
Women have been struggling with equality for hundreds of years, and we are finally coming to a stage where this phenomenon of inequality has finally started to decrease and is not the outrage that is used to be. However, the world is still run by men. Wall Street still has men dominating the financial markets and the CEO places of the top global companies. The fashion industry is a multi billion-dollar industry that touches on self expression and art, yet is run by men. To gain real equality, especially in fashion, we must get rid of all male chauvinisms. But does the fashion industry have the compatibility to change to meet the standards of modern society?
We all have different body sizes, shapes and heights, and aspects of ourselves that vex us. The idea of ultra thinness is promoted bi-annually on the catwalk with models being a range of sizes from 0- 6. This ideal that is strongly thrown around is unattainable for the average woman, (however we must not forget that models on the runway are used as plain canvases to present the new season clothing at test sizes). A few years ago, Karl Lagerfeld said that Adele, a renowned singer, was a ‘little too fat’. Adele is a curvy, healthy woman who was objectified due to the fact that she was not as skinny as the average model. She has won multiple awards in her career, and yet Lagerfeld’s opinion was not on her talent and success, but her appearance.
Two years ago, Chanel presented their usual tweed inspired Parisian collection in the Grand Palais, Paris and combined feminism within the clothing. Models were seen holding placards with phrases like ‘Ladies first’ and ‘History is her story’, along with two models chanting into megaphones. Though this was a good commercial step in the feminism direction, the fashion house benefitted hugely from the widespread publicity of the collection. But why does it take a group of thin, beautiful models on the runway with a prominent, and maybe even controversial issue to get the media running at them not for the issue that was raised but for their “look” and celebrity presence. Fashion briefly touched on feminism, but a month or two later it was history to everyone. Of course the models are not activists, but this is said to be the generation that looks beyond the shop window. The problem is that this fight only comes in phases, as the need for feminism is not a prominent issue that they seem to want nor need to tackle.
Feminism has a small impact on the fashion industry, but the women making the clothing for many high street brands, as well as a few high fashion, are working in poverty. Many work for fourteen to sixteen hours per day and are paid minimal wages, as well as some working without their Trade Union rights recognised. A minority are even sexually or physically abused, and are unable to send their children to school to receive an education. This side of fashion is hidden from the public, and yet when it comes to our attention we all blindly push this issue under the carpet. There is a massive divide between the women buying and selling the clothing to the women who work night and day to produce the clothes for miniscule wages; and yet this industry is seen to be one of the most luxurious, though the labour of the products and the exclusive life of the buyers are on two completely different ends of the spectrum.
Now consider fashion from a different angle women are empowered here. Designers design clothing for confident, successful women which makes the exclusive attire so desirable. Fashion is a vehicle of self expression, and it gives us the ability to illustrate our feelings, personalities and present the essence of who we are daily. Many women see fashion as an armour that protects them, and might be a reason why this industry is so successful. When Fashion Week arrives the cover stories of magazines, newspapers and tabloids are engulfed with the new collections that have been unveiled, putting women’s desires at the forefront of the world.
Many women see fashion magazines as a feeding ground of the exploitation of insecurities as the pages are filled with photos of beautiful women and models wearing high fashion clothing. On the other hand, however many feel that magazines are a source of empowerment and inspiration. Magazines include articles on successful women achieving greatness in their field, and at the same time having two women lead the way (Grace Coddington and Anna Wintour).
Fashion is first and foremost about clothes. It emphasises women’s appearances, bodies and their ‘look’. Feminism is about increasing the choices available for women across the world and removing restrictions that are dedicated specifically to that sex. Feminism is therefore not compatible within the fashion industry as they are both striving for two different aspirations and goals. Though many of the leading brands may have a circle of men heading up the fashion house, the industry is fast paced and ever evolving to meet the talents of the younger generations. The fashion world is fuelled by hard work, determination and talent with no bias to gender. Fashion focuses on clothing and art with no care to gender implications that society has strained on us.
Side note: I tried to truly look at all the different angles of this industry to make this article a fair discussion. I hope not to offend anyone with my views, and I respect everyone’s opinions on this topic too. I would class myself a feminist, but personally do not believe this issue fits within the realm of fashion.