The new direction. What is fashion activism?
Whether you’re in the fashion world or not, you have most likely encountered a version of fashion activism at some point. Fashion has always been used for creative expression.
Since the rise of humanitarian rights, activism has been applied to bring social and environmental issues to the forefront.
The reason why this is so exciting for us to talk about, is because as the founder of an equality brand, I want to take this new direction with fashion activism and integrate it into the core messaging of our rebrand.
For me, as a humanitarian and the founder of an equality brand, I see activism as a celebration of HUGE societal change. I truly believe we can really make a difference by wearing what we want to stand for. For example, the reason we can go to work and have the right to run businesses as women, is due to the rise of feminism and it’s representations in fashion.
I think it is vital we celebrate the movement for the ripple effect, which has shaped what new inclusive norms look like. One of my favourite references is the ‘mini skirt’, which was a rebellious act against social norms at the time. The story behind the mini skirt is so empowering and I’ll touch on it more in the upcoming blog posts - so stay tuned.
So why use fashion as a form of advocating for social and/or environmental issues?
Many of us connect to our clothes on a deeper level, especially those that make us feel good or feel like we can accomplish anything in. Fashion communicates our identities, our style, our values, the relationships we have, how we want to be seen and most importantly how we feel that day. Clothes are the closest thing to our bodies, literally on our skin, so it’s “bloody” personal.
The question that pops up though is, is it political as well? Or are they two and the same?
Let’s take a little trip down the rabbit hole for a minute.
We can look at the history of fashion and see the personal side as only one side of the story.
Or we can look at the bigger picture and see the fashion industry as a medium that has shaped political decisions, balanced power dynamics and global exchange. A way that we can wear what we believe in without limitations.
Fashion activism can be used to challenge different ideologies and systems that no longer suit our time and individual needs. We can now create a better world through good and noble fashion designs and practices. I strongly believe fashion will be a big driver of change and I’m sure you’d agree. Why else would you be here right?
How does fashion activism work? Let’s have a look at some examples from the last decade;
There are so many ways to advocate for human and environment rights. How do we draw attention to what needs to change for the greater good?
Here are a few of our favourite examples from the last decade that depict fashion activism and it’s positive impact, very well;
The first example is through representing the women’s social and political union ‘vote for women’ in 1912, “The suffrogates wore white as part of the trinity of colours; white for purity, purple for dignity and loyalty, and green for hope,” explains Kara Mcleod, fashion historian and professor at FIDM. In continuation, the House Democratic Women’s working Group in 2017, asked women members to wear white to a presidential address, as a group gesture to signify support for women’s rights and again in 2019 at the State of the Union address. Many women have followed suit, including Hilary Clinton, “as a message of solidarity, unity and support for women and a declaration that we will not go back on our hard earned right.”
Colours and styles play a big part of how we express ourselves, the underlying meaning and message with the above example, is a part of our inspiration for the new colour guide with the exciting rebrand.
The second example is, in November 2016, The Pussy Hat Project, a fashion activism movement was created to de-stigmatise the word and represent women’s rights and human rights through art expression, education and respectful dialogue. The sea of pink hats was inspired so women and men could walk arm in arm, in solidarity for women’s rights and in protest against the rhetoric used toward women and minorities.
Next is the social good project - which not only, has an exclusive women’s rights collection, including the “It’s up to the women” t-shirts and "you're not the boss of V" (my personal favourite haha). Yet they support organisations that fight to protect reproductive rights, end gender discrimination, ensure equal opportunities and education and, help pave the pathway to help elect more women to public office. I feel such a strong connection to what they are doing, and it resonates with you too.
The final example I’ll share today, is the power in numbers. Did you know that 3.5-5.5 million people around the world attended the women’s march in January 2017, creating an uprising the world had not seen before. From Nigeria, to India, to Latin America, across the world, women stood up for each other and stood in unity for their rights as human beings.
We could go on all day and night giving examples of pivotal movements that fashion activism has been a driver for change for, which I would like to definitely dive into deeper at a later date. However, I am grateful for where it is now, and I’d like to celebrate fashion activism as it is used as a provoker of systematic and political change and there are so many ways we can individually activate our beliefs and nuances into society.
Keep an eye out for the next article on the history of fashion activism and how it still has a vital role to play in encouraging unity and celebrating our rights.