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Is Feminism Just a New Fashion Trend?

Trend?

Ah, Feminism, the ‘F-word’… A couple of years ago, few people would admit to being a feminist. But, now, it’s written on T-shirts in every high-street store you pass. So why the U-turn? We’ve gone from being embarrassed to say the word to wearing it in capital letters emblazoned across our chests.

Feminist T-shirt by Tee & Cake

It would be interesting to see how many impressionable young people are wearing these clothes because they identify with feminism. Then again, maybe they’re just following another trend that will be out of style next season…

So, has everyone suddenly become loud and proud to be a feminist or have fashion brands just tapped into a market to make some big money? I would hope that it’s the first option, but that seems less likely looking at these facts:

  1. Only 36% of British adults define themselves as feminist yet 76% support gender equality as of 2017
  2. Only 20% of Americans consider themselves feminist

Which probably comes down to the fact that the definition of the ‘F-word’ is misunderstood.

“Feminism has had exactly the same problem that “political correctness” has had: people keep using the phrase without really knowing what it means.”

Caitlin Moran, How to Be a Woman

Dior: Feminism, a Clever Marketing Trick?

We should be jumping for joy that a designer like Dior is celebrating feminism… Yet, why is this excitement just coming out as confusion? I check the website and it’s retailing for £490 (I was expecting it to be expensive, but woah), however, that isn’t the disappointing thing.
The disappointing thing is the lack of information and lack of credit to whom it owes its slogan: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. There is NOTHING. ZERO. It’s a missed opportunity – why wouldn’t they celebrate a woman who’s as inspiring as her? Yes, she sat front row at Dior’s show, but that’s as much reference there is.

(If you haven’t listened to her speech, then watch it here – it’s a perfect summary of what feminism is. I also got the mini book – it only takes about 20 minutes to read and it’s a cute bed-side table book).

And then I’m annoyed that it doesn’t reference anything apart from what it’s made from. Nothing about raising awareness for gender equality. Nothing about supporting female charities. At this steep price some proceeds must go to a charity?

Well, it turns out it does. A ‘portion of the sale’ will benefit Rihanna’s charity Clara Lionel Foundation (no mention of what percentage). But I only find this out by digging through the internet. Maybe they made this announcement as an afterthought to dampen the criticism they received…

So, some part of the profit of this T-shirt will go to charity, but how much is not specified. It could be 1% or 100%; but what I’m willing to bet is that it leaves Dior with a hefty profit.

This lack of information makes Dior seem so non-committal to the feminist movement that it just seems like a marketing tactic. And its clearly working, as its now sold out worldwide and high-street retailers like Topshop and River Island are following suit… as are consumers.

“What does [this Dior T-shirt] say about the person wearing it other than: ‘I can afford a $600 T-shirt’? Feminism has been entirely co-opted by consumerism.”

-Jessa Crispin

When I saw this tee on the catwalk, I loved it, because I love the quote, Chimamanda’s speech and Beyoncé’s song where part of her speech is sampled… and I wanted it. (So I guess their marketing has manipulated me too!) So that’s why I decided to dig deeper.

Hannah in 'We Should All Be Feminists T-Shirt'

So I made a stand and got a copy from Etsy for a £12 which is 98% cheaper (lol) than the Dior and then donated 100% of what I paid for it to a feminist charity: The Fawcett Society.

Just a disclaimer: I don’t usually advocate buying fake luxury items and I’m not going to pretend this top’s real Dior, but in this case, we’re all winners, because:

  1. A charity received a donation and I actually know how much was donated
  2. A local small-company in London got some business
  3. It prompted me and maybe another person to think about this feminism ‘trend’
  4. I get a T-shirt with the quote on : )

(If you want to donate too you can here)

This top was one of the only pieces from Maria Grazia Chiuri’s debut collection for Dior that I liked. And it’s a plain cotton T-shirt with someone else’s quote on it, so that says it all! But that’s another matter. As its first ever female Creative Director in the Fashion House’s whole history, you would’ve thought that she could’ve made a really big feminist statement and taken it a lot further than just this one piece in the collection.

But, does it really matter whether the motivations were in no way altruistic or informative?

At the end of it all, the high-street is following and people are wearing the word ‘feminism’ more than ever. Whether it’s because it’s a statement they believe in or they’re following a trend, it must be heading in the right direction. All publicity is good publicity, right?

‘Feminist’ Fashion done the best way

This brings me to Elle Magazine’s campaign This is What A Feminist Looks Like from their 2014 December issue – their first ‘Feminism edition’ on which Emma Watson covered.

Their T-shirts, worn by nearly every celebrity you can think of, female and male, had a clear purpose of raising awareness… and they donated all the profits.

100% of profits from the ethically-produced range go to gender equality lobby group The Fawcett Society.

-Elle

A version of this T-shirt is still available on the Fawcett Society website.

So, is Feminism a trend?

Yes. It is. But, it’s not just a trend. Slogans will always be a thing in fashion. Right now, it’s a statement about female empowerment. But, feminism being a fashion trend isn’t a bad thing. It’s starting to open up more conversations about it. It doesn’t necessarily mean this trend will fade away either. It might just be the push some of us need to stop feeling afraid of or embarrassed by the ‘F-word’.

And I will disagree with what some of Jessa Crispin says in the article I quoted above: that young girls who are now starting to identify as feminist are bland and lazy. If people are wanting to wear a T-shirt with the word Feminist on it, then no-one should discourage them.

Maria Grazia Chiuri’s T-shirt wasn’t just the stand-out piece from this Dior collection, but from the whole of this year’s Paris Fashion Week. Regardless of my scepticism, this T-shirt alone got a global conversation going about Feminism and I think that is what we’ve been needing for a long time.

I think this quote nicely sums up why fashion is fully on board with feminism:

“When you are a woman making clothes for women, then fashion is not just about how you look. It is about how you feel and how you think. Feminism for me is about equal opportunities. If I am going to stand for something, I would like to stand for this idea: that if you are a woman you can have these opportunities in life.”

Maria Grazia Chiuri, Creative Director at Dior

So, yeah, why not fully embrace this trend?!

What are your thoughts?
Is is just a marketing tool for retailers or do they really care about raising awareness about gender equality?
And will you be following the trend by wearing a feminist T-shirt?

Thanks for reading my first ever blog post! ♥

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Update!

As of 15 July 2017

Look how similar this H&M T-shirt is compared to the Dior T-shirt! Like, so similar that I’m surprised they got away with this being the world’s largest clothing retailer?! But at £17.99 it’s a steal. Any lawsuit coming their way from Dior, I’ll let you know!

H&M The Revolution is Female T-shirt
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