Tag Archives: fashion

Fashion x Feminism

Fashion and feminism are two of the subjects closest to my heart, but they often seem in conflict, with fashion brands and media refusing to offer anything but derogatory or unrealistic images of women, and academic feminists disdaining any woman who works in fashion (I’ve experienced this first-hand, and it was deeply disappointing).

In the last year or so, fashion brands have begun to catch on to the growing wave of popular feminism, with varying results. I feel deeply ambivalent about this. Originally, I thought it was great that one of the most visibly “female” industries was starting to behave in a slightly less misogynist way, but when feminism becomes a trend like any other, there’s the danger that it gets taken up quickly and then is discarded like last winter’s pink coat. Anyway, I tried to put some of my research on this into some kind of useful form for a report on Stylus, a brief excerpt of which is below…

Feminism sells

One of the most-debated words over the last year, it seems that feminism has gone mainstream, with brands and celebrities co-opting feminism to gain greater traction with female consumers. Elle UK recently devoted its entire November issue to feminism, as well as launching a controversial “this is what a feminist looks like” T-shirt in conjunction with Whistles, while the magazine’s parent company, Hearst, has launched a website that aims to empower women.

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“Are you a feminist?” has become a regular question in celebrity interviews, while a growing number of celebrities, from Miley Cyrus to Benedict Cumberbatch, have “come out” as feminist. Stars expressing support for equality have proved hugely popular with fans, and raised the profile of feminism, but they are also held to a higher standard of body-positivity, sisterhood and social awareness as a result. Those celebrities who don’t always reach that standard risk accusations of inauthenticity, such as Beyonce, whose single Pretty Hurts promotes self-empowerment, yet she has been accused of regularly airbrushing her supposedly candid Instagram images.

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Fashion brands are increasingly aligning themselves with feminism too: Chanel recently made noise with its protest-themed catwalk show, where models carried placards bearing slogans such as “Women’s Rights are More than Alright”, “Ladies First”, “History is Her Story” and “We Can Match the Machos”. The show inspired a phalanx of think pieces about whether the brand was satirising, co-opting or promoting feminism, showing that the relationship between brands and feminism is a challenging one.

Body beautiful

In fashion imagery, stylish plus-size women are finally coming to the fore: For the first time, the 2015 Pirelli calendar features a size 16 model, Candice Huffine, and glossy plus-size magazine SLiNK, now available in 15 countries, aims to show that “beauty and style doesn’t stop at a size 8”. Actress Melissa McCarthy certainly agrees, recently announcing her own plus-size clothing line, due to launch in 2015. A Mintel study found that 34% of women want to see more clothing photographed on larger models.o-DEAR-KATE-570

Those brands that are behind the body-positive curve risk censure from consumers,as Victoria’s Secret found with its “The Perfect Body” shapewear campaign. Consumers objected to the ads, which featured universally slim models, and the brand was forced to change its strapline to “A body for every body”.

But it’s not just about body size – beauty brand MAC has launched its MACnificentMe campaign to promote “being creative, being confident, having fun and most of all, being true to yourself”, by asking women to share their mantras about what makes them unique.

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The new superheroines

X-Women have now got their own comic book

X-Women have now got their own comic book

Comic-Con, the major sci-fi and comic event, was held in San Diego last week, showcasing the biggest and newest brands in the sci-fi, comic and entertainment worlds. As geek culture has been male-dominated for many years, it was great to see a new generation of superheroines coming to the forefront. These superhuman, kick-ass mutants are inspiring us for SS16…

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The new Thor

The newest iteration of Thor (the super-strong Norse god) is female in the new series of Marvel comic books. Series writer Jason Aaron said: “This is not She-Thor. This is not Lady Thor. This is THE Thor.”

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Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

After much hype, Wonder Woman‘s new look was revealed at Comic-Con. With a more warrior princess vibe than Wonder Woman’s usual patriotic scanties, she’ll be appearing in the forthcoming Batman vs. Superman movie. DC Comics describe her as “The full package of beauty, brains, and brawn, she’s been a feminist icon since her star-spangled intro in 1941”.

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New iteration of Ms. Marvel

Ms. Marvel has this year been rebooted as a Muslim teenager from New Jersey, gaining new sensibilities and much less saucy outfits.

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Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique in X-Men: Days of Future Past

More of a villain than a heroine, X-Men‘s Mystique is unapologetic about her mutant status, revelling in her abilities to change form and kick ass.

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The Wasp, in giant mode

We’re also looking forward to Rashida Jones’ take on The Wasp in upcoming blockbuster Ant-Man. The character can shrink to insect size. grow giant, fly on insect-like wings and shoot energy blasts.

I originally wrote this post for uniquestyleplatform.com

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Boy/girl, boy/girl

MSGM menswear catwalk

MSGM menswear S/S 15

Fashion’s love of androgyny and fluid gender have taken a more practical step forward, with the increasing appearance of womenswear on menswear catwalks, and vice versa.

Y-3 catwalk menswear

Y-3 menswear S/S 15

At the recent menswear S/S 15 shows, collections from JW Anderson (who loves a bit of boy/girl fashion) to Givenchy’s delicate florals, Marc Jacobs’ dreamy pinks and Dries Van Noten’s balletic flourishes all offered something for the girls as well as the targeted boys.

Meanwhile, menswear shows from designers as diverse as Prada, Y-3, MSGM, Daks and Katie Eary also featured women on the catwalk.

Prada catwalk menswear

Prada menswear S/S 15

In an interview with The Telegraph, Miuccia Prada gave an insight into how some designers are approaching their men’s and women’s collections:

“I am introducing more and more women [in menswear]. Because I think the combination is more real. It is more today. Otherwise it looks like we are in classes, in the time of my grandfather, women divided from men. The shows divided are so unreal and I think that it is when you put them together you get a sense of what is meaningful and real…Basically I think to people, not to gender.”

I originally wrote this post for uniquestyleplatform.com

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The Hunger Games’ fictional fashion world

Whether you’re a fan of the $1.5bn The Hunger Games franchise or not, the visual language created for the films is impressive, from the impoverished outlying districts, to the rich and wasteful Capitol. In many ways a celebration of the costume designer’s art, each district in the fictional world of Panem, where the stories are set, has a distinct palette of colour, silhouette and materials.

Poster images for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part One

Teaser poster images for upcoming The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

These newly released poster images have a Soviet-style feel, promoting the heroism of the humble workers of each district, with inventive and witty use of materials for the Transport, Grain and Lumber districts.

The film-makers are adept at using social and viral media to blur the boundaries between the fictional world of The Hunger Games and the real world that it satirises. As the promotional juggernaut revs up for the forthcoming Mockingjay Part 1, out in November 2014, expect to see glimpses of Panem creeping into everyday life. Panem’s autocratic government already has its own website, which recently released this beautifully blanc new teaser trailer – the monochrome white setting adds to the chilling tone of the propaganda.

Meanwhile, the frivolous, outré style of the Capitol is glossily and excitedly chronicled at fictional fashion magazine Capitol CoutureThe site also profiles innovative real designers such as Peter Popps, Stella Jean and Lucy McRae.

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Cover Girl’s beauty collection for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire in 2013

The first two films, The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, have already been influential on major brands: costume designer Trish Summerville has collaborated with Net-A-Porter to bring the style of Panem to the real world, while the OTT beauty style of Capitol citizens was encapsulated by Cover Girl. Details of Mockingjay-branded collections are yet to be released, but we expect them to be equally high-profile.

I originally wrote this post for uniquestyleplatform.com

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Rise of the Peacock

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Burberry Prorsum a/w 14/15

Back from the realms of aesthetes and lumberjacks, menswear is getting a new peacockish air. In recent seasons, we have found the menswear shows more inspiring than the more dominant womenswear fashion weeks, while the current batch of graduates are showing a newly confident, even cocky, style of menswear.

We’re seeing menswear become an increasingly important part of the fashion world, as changing ideas of masculinity encourage men to be bolder with their style choices, and the saturated fashion market shifts its focus to underserved men.

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Nike Elite sports socks

According to NPD, the growth of menswear sales has exceeded those of womenswear for the last two years, while HSBC is encouraging luxury brands to focus on the Young, Urban, Male shopper (horribly dubbed the Yummy). These luxury shoppers now account for 40% of global luxury sales, but as much as 55% of luxury purchases in China. Now Prada is planning to open 50 new menswear stores in the next 3 years (up from 4 stores opened in 2013).

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Mr Porter style guide

And men are revelling in the new attention being paid to the design of their clothes, from shorter shorts and better-fitting shirts to brightly coloured socks. While high fashion is going more peacocky, many men are still used to safe, reliable classics and slowly evolving styles, but they’re dipping their toes in the water with the help of expert guides. A new wave of personal stylists for men are helping the less adventurous to explore their style, while handy guides on Mr Porter help men to be more adventurous with new trends.

I originally wrote this post for uniquestyleplatform.com

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Dressing for the gaze

This is too cool for school. These dresses are gaze-activated, moving or lighting up when someone stares at them.

(no)where(now)here : 2 gaze-activated dresses by ying gao from ying gao on Vimeo.

The designer, Ying Gao, describes the project thus:

“Absence often occurs at breakfast time – the tea cup dropped, then spilled on the table being one of its most common consequences. Absence lasts but a few seconds, its beginning and end are sudden. However closed to outside impressions, the senses are awake. The return is as immediate as the departure, the suspended word or movement is picked up where it was left off as conscious time automatically reconstructs itself, thus becoming continuous and free of any apparent interruption.”

The movement is certainly mesmerising – and uncanny – but the science behind these dresses is the real amazement. Each dress is made of photoluminescent thread and organza, which is embedded with eye-tracking technology that is activated by a spectators’ gaze. As people’s gazes are constantly shifting, so the surface of the dress keeps moving. The idea of transience is really firing up my synapses right now (not least because of elusive communication forms like Snapchat!), but this is a really beautiful way to demonstrate transience as a positive thing, not a throwaway one.

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Dress up or down

tumblr_mj13irinvy1rf2j88o2_250The ability to dress an outfit up or down is rather a fash-mag cliché, as well as my half-serious enabling rule for pretty much any purchase: “you can dress it up or down, day-to-evening, it’s an interseasonal classic!”. But now the endlessly inventive Hussein Chalayan has turned “dress up or down” into an actual thing, with his recent  A/W 13 show in Paris. By just pulling at the collar, models could transform neat shifts into dramatic long dresses, offering a far more impactful (and slightly sci-fi) option for day-to-evening dressing than putting a spangly cardi on. Useful fashion innovation – who knew?

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Strong women

Finally finishing up my report from the Fashion in Feminism talk at the V&A for The Women’s Room, which included much discussion of body diversity, and it reminded me of this recent campaign from MAC (below). I already love me some MAC, not just for its brilliantly coloured lipsticks, but because it puts “unconventional” beauties front and centre in its advertising. Of course, there are plenty of model-pix amongst its campaigns (and column-inch fodder like Nicki Minaj) but it’s also giving space to inspiring women like Beth Ditto and Iris Apfel, and in a sea of identikit airbrushed beauty shots, that’s not nothing.

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Celebrating a proudly muscular female form seems different from the image industries’ usual body diversity tactics: “Celeb X flaunts her curves” (read: has boobs) or Magazine X “celebrates the body” (read: fetishistic pictures of naked/scantily clad plus-size model). I wonder if it’s an effect of the incredible bodies vaunted by the “women’s Olympics”, that consumers and brands alike are more willing to admire a body that is visibly strong: Body as machine, not decoration.

Kathryn Ferguson, a film-maker who spoke at the Fashion in Feminism talk, pointed to this film, Elisha Smith Leverock’s  I Want Muscle, as new example of strong and empowered women in (and on)  film. The film has been nominated for the Design Museum’s Designs Of The Year award. Although the visuals (and slightly pornalike soundtrack) are a bit fetishy, they contrast nicely with bodybuilder Kizzy Vaines’ assessment of the beauty of her hard-won, sculptured body. Check it out above.

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Fashion x Feminism

For two things that interest women (such as myself) so much, it’s always baffled me that fashion and feminism rarely co-exist. Fashion is often dismissed as a frivolous occupation of shallow women, but it’s an extraordinarily prejudiced view. Loving fashion does not preclude a women’s ability to be a feminist, and vice-versa*.

Obviously, the unfair stereotype of the bra-burning, dungaree-wearing radical feminist casts a long shadow over the relationship between fashion and feminism, but feminism today is (or should be)  much more inclusive than that. Loving the thrill and glamour and fun of fashion shouldn’t prevent a woman being taken seriously as a feminist, any more than loving the thrill and glamour and fun of the theatre does. Yet somehow, an interest in the theatre marks someone as “serious” and an interest in fashion marks them out as “silly”. Like a woman in a nice dress is unable to hold any other thought in her head than OMG!! Dresses!! Come on sisters, we’re supposed to be past this by now.

The industry itself hardly helps. Fashion has collaborated with pretty much every cause i can think of over the years, every industry and every brand, yet somehow has managed to avoid any allegiance to feminism. More fashion types (like Tavi, below) and celebrities are “coming out” as feminists, but that’s still not enough. In a hugely female-dominated industry, why aren’t more fashionistas standing up in their metallic brogues or clumpy Acne platforms, and declaring, “This Is What A Feminist Looks Like”?!

Yes, many feminists revel in not having to wear uncomfortable or ridiculous trends to adhere to the current feminine ideal, but just because a woman chooses to wear a heel or a bright lipstick does not make her a bad feminist. Feminism today is a broad church, and we should be supporting other women’s choices and interests, rather than dismissing them.  I like nice things and I am a feminist and I am OK with that.  I adhere to a  feminism that means a woman can do whatever the fuck she likes, making her own choices on the reproductive, employment, sartorial, social or cultural fronts without judgement. Apparently others are practicing another kind of feminism – they’re welcome to it.
*If you’re interested, this post is a result of supporters of new women’s expertise advocacy group The Women’s Room UK claiming they had more right to the name than the well-respected 4-year-old The Women’s Room blog, because it is only a “life and style” blog and therefore not properly feminist. Update on the situation here and here

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A rare bird

Thanks to Helen for drawing this to my attention – defo the next feature presentation for Fashion Film Club (which is not a real thing, but totally should be). The great Maysles brothers, who directed the wonderful and wonderfully disturbing Grey Gardens, have obviously decided to play to the trend-forecaster gallery by making a documentary about style icon Iris Apfel. “Icon” is a term waaaaayy overused in the fashion world, but Apfel is an icon forreals: her singular style really is inspirational, both aesthetically and in its sense of confidence and freedom. As far as I can see, Apfel only gets more awesome as she ages – surely that’s the only way to grow old gracefully…

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