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I have played witness and activist in more protests during the past two weeks than I have my entire life. Be it the colonialist mentalities that still circulate the minds of family members, or the subconscious feared-straight mindset I have to the law. Either way, the fear is on its way back to the oppressors and I look forward to continuing my involvement in such crucial movements and effective mobilizing. 

It seems as though Chanel caught waves of the protest filled air that had been circulating given the unconventional sign-bearing models that took to the "catwalk" at the Paris FW Spring/Summer 2015 show just yesterday. Led by Lagerfeld himself, the models marched behind one another with signs commenting on the need for gender reconfiguration. Messages such as "History is her story," "Ladies first," or "Make Fashion not War" (later shown as text on canvas with the launch of Chanel's new clutches) were among some of the signs in hand as models representing the Chanel House bombarded the runway. Fashion is the ultimate cool, and it decided feminism was now and could now be a part of this world, this "cool." 

...But who really gets to make that call? Is it Lagerfeld? -A designer who has been pretty obtuse to conversations surrounding feminism much less within them? The ultra safe and oh so popular slim white models behind him? Or is it the powerhouse corporation behind a global fashion brand marketed to women? Who got to decide feminism was cool? (Was it B?)

Lagerfeld could barely really justify why he chose to do what he did when asked in an interview, treating it as almost common knowledge that it only made sense for him to incorporate a theme as such. Why wouldn't we want equality among the sexes? As if it to say "Fashion is about the trend of the season, right? A classic of a particular time. The concept of feminism is relevant to the now, so we use it in fashion!" The real wave that the Chanel house has caught on to here, is a feminist one. 

It has always been relevant. Models always needed to not always be white and slim. Fashion needed to always had been feminist. Feminism needs to always be a legitimized way of thinking and organizing across all fronts, especially fashion. It is baffling to imagine the amount of times I have had the same conversation over and over- with myself, with others, on how incredibly mind-blowing it is that models lack diversity in fashion. Industry executives, fashion professors, my art teacher, my mom, your dad, our next door neighbor, everyone knows that fashion is a world built on exclusivity. So why should we praise Lagerfeld for suddenly deciding to mention the word feminism? Because that is what he did- he mentioned it. Though this is a "protest," and there were hand-made signs, Lagerfeld had nothing to really bring to the conversation of feminism. Which not only proves his lackluster stake in the conversation, but further indicates the level in which feminism is undermined as if there aren't rules, as if there is nothing to study, as if anyone can pick up a banner in the name of 'He for She' and suddenly be feminists. They also seemed to be promoting feminism in a very "I'm going to promote feminism in a man-hating way because that's' what it's all about" type way. It doesn't quite work like that. Though there are radical feminists who boycott the notion of any male ascribed form of living (which is a totally valid choice considering the systems at play), feminism has had to prove its legitimacy time and time again. After much work by amazing feminists (besides just Gloria Steinman) who committed their lives to contributing to the building of a new consciousness, feminism has evolved and will continue to challenge itself to be looking at identity in a comprehensive and critical way. It just doesn't seem well intended on the part of Chanel  to add 'feminism' as a last minute prop or accessory to a collection that ultimately defies no mainstream convention. We don't take off feminism after it has been stained with red wine and drop it off at the nearest dry-cleaner. It stays. 

Though I would love to welcome Lagerfeld with open arms as a feminist myself, I can't really extend much gratitude or resort to the whole appreciating Chanel for "bringing something to the table to open a dialogue" either because quite frankly, he didn't. There wasn't a question posed, no challenging of the notion of fashion as besides the sign holding, in fact, nothing in the fashion show was visually different than any other. I assume Mr. Lagerfeld didn't think his audience should have been the audience of any sort of message. He didn't realize the very system in which he operates under should be one of the first he attacks. He has built fifty-years worth of agency and access in the field, he should make use of it in this cause if he really cares. Feminism comes with a certain commitment to risk and truth, and that message for me fell flat. Fashion to this day upholds many practices that are antiquated and anti-feminist, not to mention racist and classist, so let's start there. Let's begin. Feminism isn't a walk in the park, or in this case, a walk down the runway. It takes a lot of work, time, and acute planning. All that is required is a commitment to engaging in a knowledge that is liberatory.

I would hope to see fashion develop a core relationship to feminist ideas as more people are forced to interact with the word itself through a diverse set of mediums. Unfortunately for now, this is all I can do. Unfortunately for fashion, the next show is in the next two hours so, this post becomes irrelevant very soon..

Coverage also by Quartz, The Guardian, NYTimes, Jezebel, VOGUE, and of course, Refinery29.


Anonymous said…
Great piece love!

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