Fashion and Politics: the Latest Must-Have Collaboration

What better way to bring attention to your cause than by wearing it on your sleeve

Fashion and politics

Words: Zoya Pon | Photographs: REX Features

There's never been an easier or more accessible time to have your say, and make your cause known – from statement tees, pink pussy hats, black berets, to rainbow stripes, it's never been easier (or more stylish). Take inspo from our Wokeness season 17/18 round up.


Fashion and politics

2017 fashion weeks saw designers like Tommy Hilfiger, Thakoon, Prabal Gurung, Phillip Lim, Dior, and Diane von Furstenberg feature models accessorised with white bandanas, as well as sporting them themselves. The customized white bandanas were even given to guests at the Dior show, printed with: "Feminist: A person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes."

The bandanas were a "symbol of inclusivity and acceptance" according to the Business of Fashion. This reflected the height of the refugee crisis at the time, and the protest against Donald Trump's ban of refugees from "high-risk" countries as well as his unfunded wall between the US and Mexico. The proceeds of the bandanas went to the ACLU and the UN Refugee Agency.

Pink Pussy Hats and Pins

fashion and politics

We also largely have Trump to thank for the renewed verve around female reproductive rights and women's rights in general. The current POTUS was elected at the end of 2016, which understandably outraged women in the US (and across the world). To prove the point, Trump wasted no time repealing Obamacare, which most notably allowed states to defund organizations like Planned Parenthood.

Designers and models displayed their disdain with pins stating “Fashion Stands With Planned Parenthood" at NYFW and Missoni had both models and guests wearing pink pussy hats at their Milan show. Again, proceeds of the sales went to the ACLU and U.N. Refugee Agency.

In 2017 we saw causes like womens rights, racial inequality and the refugee crises take centre stage and this year we see these themes continue. While we are not yet living in an equal world, we are as progressive as we have ever been. And the social climate is figuratively on fire with activism. As the generation that coined the term "woke", we are wide awake, and brands have been forced to get on board, or fall into irrelevant oblivion.

Statement Tees

fashion and politics

The most memorable branding being Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's, "We Should All Be Feminists" and popularized by the Dior March 2017 show, which saw pre-sold t-shirts printed with the mantra as well as "Dio(R)evolution". Proceeds supported Rihanna's Clara Lionel Foundation, which fights against injustice, inequality, and poverty and promotes access to education.

Chimamanda herself sat front row at the Dior Spring 2017 show where models accessorised themselves with black berets in a strong symbolic statement of protest and revolution. Black berets have been worn by activists throughout history, most relevantly by the Black Panther civil rights group.

Other fave statement tees include: "Feminist AF" by Jonathan Simkhai, Trump's Hillary Clinton insult-inspired "Nasty woman", Prabal Garung's Fall 2017 "Stay Woke", Frank Ocean's "Why be racist, sexist, homophopic, or transphobic when you could just be quiet?", Beyonce's "Black Magic", "Start a Revolution", "The Future is Female", "Girl Gang" and "Femme" t-shirts. Locally C(lit) Clothing's t-shirts drive the momentum with statements like "No Means No" and "Tr(eat) Me Better".

Hashtag activism on the red carpet

Fashion and politics

In 2018 political dressing continues on the red carpet where celebrities took a break from traditional trend-setting to adopt all black evening attire in solidarity with the #MeToo movement and #TimesUp cause. The movement was originally created by activist Tarana Burke and experienced a strong resurgence in light of the Harvey Weinstein sexual assault allegations. #TimesUp was launched in January this year to increase awareness and support women suffering from sexual violence with legislation and legal funds.

In February celebrities continued their show of support by adorning themselves with white roses at the Grammys. Other red carpet political dressing thus far includes white roses and black dresses making appearances at the Brits Awards and BAFTAs and #TimesUp pins appearing on the Oscars red carpet.

FWD TO FW 2018

Fashion and politics

Using the runway as a platform for activism continued with Prabal Gurung's collection, which #MeToo founder Tarana Burke attended and where models walked hand in hand, carrying white flowers. Christopher Bailey's final Burberry collection was awash with rainbow colours in support of LGBTQI+ rights. Tom Ford did a "Pussy Power" bag. Zadig & Voltaire did Women’s March printed tees. And models shared their experiences of sexual harassment at a Times Up show.

While many argue that fashion and Hollywood's adoption of political dressing is capitalist appropriation, which commercialises important issues for profit, one undeniable fact is: it's happening. Will it last, when hashtag and Insta-activism die down, or will we stick to our guns and donate, volunteer, spread the word and continue the fight, joining together against the common enemy of inequality? 

Well, that's up to you isn't it.  

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