The fashion industry has not historically been associated with feminism. It has been seen as a sector that can thrive off the insecurities of women, of objectifying, of fetishising. This view has been changing, slowly but steadily, over the past 10 years. The advent of the social media influencer has opened up the fashion stage to new perspectives – less Eurocentric, more varied and daring, more female friendly and body positive.
The Gucci sex kitten look of the early 00s (think slinky backless dresses that resemble belts) has faded out of fashion as passive has become less desirable and agency (ie. ‘you doing you’) has become the new millennial raison d’etre.
Nowhere is this more obvious than in the fashion blogging sphere where humour, creativity and feminism take precedence over merely being ‘pretty’ and approach fashion in a less traditional way and more as a means to express and push the boundaries of feminine identity.
In the inner circle of the fashion world, big brands are listening up. From Missoni parading the pussy hat (the iconic grassroots ‘eff you’ to the current POTUS) on its runway, to Prabal Gurung’s slogan tees, the commercialisation of such a polarising debate is starting to creep into the mainstream.
Donatella Versace caused a stir when she said that “Feminism is dead in the world. It comes from another time… Women don’t help each other, especially in fashion,” but she is signalling to a famously hostile industry that is in need of a shake up of new, emerging talent with new approaches to supporting women. One that will hopefully emerge in a post Me-Too world.
So whilst fashion and feminism have a long way to go to form a lasting partnership – perhaps it’s time to throw out the old saying from Anne Klein that ‘clothes won’t change the world.’