While showing my high school best friend, Steve, around Finland…
As fashion month is lurking around the corner I can’t help but to rehash the emotions of last season. Being a totally failed style blogger and a complete newbie to the fashion week scene with a penance to make anything awkward (call it my Midas touch) I’m not always so keen to reach out beyond the protocol. Usually I like to recap fashion week by turning my social anxiety and unbelievable awkwardness into quirky lessons, however looking back at the year the whole world has had and how the industry as such has reacted to it has left me completely baffled.
‘Sustainability & Political awareness is more than a trend for designers to push out 500$ t-shirts‘
From set-backs as a society with Brexit and Trump, and from fashion becoming the second largest polluter in world (beating out food!!!) there is a lot to stand up against, especially when you’re an active cog in the wheels of the fashion industry. It has been well documented on how trends dictate the fashion industry, making the calculated and strategic movements of the industry occasionally seem like a bunch of lunatics jumping on any bandwagon to seem cool. As much as I would love to believe that the industry has in fact had a change of heart and our movements for social diversity, political awareness and high value on transparent business models that promote sustainable practices is a genuine progression, it doesn’t always sit right when the end outcome of most of these gestures is to profit.
There was no absence of political activism back at Copenhagen fashion week in February, and there is no doubt the industry will continue to ride this trend for the next season until the last pennies have been rubbed together. However it is crucial to note that when the industry lacks authenticity behind it’s gestures the whole idea behind it’s original protest becomes a gimmick, and slowly dissolves any chance for activism in the industry to be taken seriously and to have impact.
The transparent notion of substance behind activism in fashion is they key on weather or not their point comes across with it’s intended impact. This was evident in the events that unfolded during the AW17 shows of CPHFW. The first incident I had running into political activism was at the La La Berlin runway. The entire array of clothes already had me in suspense as the beautiful knitted gowns and their colour block suit counter parts where interrupted on the runway with a powerful slogan shown here and there. With words like ‘CHANGE’, ‘THINK’ & ‘REVOLUTION’ the tone for the show was set. To my amazement after the final runway walk Leyla Piedayesh, the Tehran born Berlin based designer, omitted her own strut down the runway and simply held a sign saying ‘I’m an Immigrant’. No gestures just her sign in all it’s mighty power. In this incident it all came together, she was a true artist. Her clothing not only was aesthetically pleasing, immaculate and had my eyes glued to each look but it went past the vanity and shallowness that often is associated with fashion. Each piece was a protest against the set backs we have been seeing as a society. It was evident her personal protest was a work of art she had been concocting for months for this show, and as someone who grew up out of my home country (this term being used very loosely) it resonated in me. Her clothes not only gave me the standard hard-on I get from fashion, but had me thinking. Her simple but beautifully woven together story waived away the criticism about fashion mixing with politics and activism. Her show opened my eyes to feel empowered about street style gurus expressing their need for unity to all human kind through their own art form, their clothes. Her protest had succeeded, Leyla had united people in taking a stand for something and inspired them to use their platforms for a cause.
Unfortunately my last show of the season left a bad taste in my mouth. The shows theme ‘Ok So I Lied’, wasn’t political but was evident throughout their presentation. The skate park venue had been carefully selected to juxtapose the clothes, slogans had been imprinted on everything imaginable and it all took place under natural lighting, which was refreshing. However the thought process behind the show eerily reeked of ‘hey there is profit to be made from turning political’. While standing with my cocktail waiting for the show to start I was offered cookies with phrases like ‘Girls Bite Back’ or ‘Pussy Grabs Back’. Something completely out of context for the shows theme, but completely in context for the horrendous statements of the current POTUS. So I shrugged it off, and thought about how they at least attempted to address the elephant in the room. Then came the clothing, which was not to my taste, but was more aimed at a mass market audience than being art in it’s own right. As every look left the runway, the feeling of being innovating and inspiring was replaced with the thought of ‘This is all for profit’. It was also important to note that the clothing also yielded no thought towards political activism, and lacked a story other than occasionally pushing their seasons catch phrase of ‘OK So I Lied’. The whole process of ‘hey let’s throw in some anti-trump bull to seem cool’ to increase publicity or to push sales was complete when the finale of the runway included one of the models carrying a trump mask, and the woman of the hour prancing onto her own runway with the utter glow of self content with a tee shirt saying ‘Pussy Grabs Back’. And Yup you guessed it, these tee-shirts were for sale. I was appalled.
My immediate reaction was yo-yoing between anger and disgust, and I had forgotten what the clothes I was there to see even looked like. The whole anti-trump aim to be super feminist, in my eyes, had completely back fired. It wasn’t empowering, it wasn’t delivering a message…. it was a complete after thought in the aims to be profitable. I felt it diminished any authenticity and genuine vibe the designer had hopefully thought about when deciding to pull a stunt like this. Diversity and Political awareness are not trends to be profited from, they are movements. Movements that include real human beings not objects for you to use up in the hopes to stir up publicity.
Even though the whole attempt at trying to bring positive vibes into the world when it needs them the most was completely half-assed and no doubt an empty gesture, I have to thank Munthe for taking the time to consider using their platform to try and unite the people. Beggars can’t be choosers right? At least in the midst of it all there was a thought to bring out light against all the hate being spread around. I felt like I shouldn’t really complain and nit-pick at where their empty gesture went wrong, but simply be thankful that they attempted to raise some sort of awareness. I mean I’m still talking about it right now, months after the show right? Munthe ended up touching on a broader subject of the fashion industry and social media, which is continuously being under scrutiny for it’s shallow and narcissistic tendencies (that in the most case can be argued to be true) but that the platforms they stand on can also be used for the greater good. Munthe did use their platform to try and show support in a time of need. However it still begs me to ask the question, pretty slogans can only cause so much commotion but what is the point if there is no real campaign behind it?
Change is occurring in the world, and I am glad to see it being reflected in the fashion industry. However it will be interesting to see if the industry will sustain standing up for their beliefs when the profits are no longer fruitful and the movement is no longer trendy.
I for one look forward to seeing how this trend evolves in the presence of the next fashion month to come, and beg that those who do aim to create profit from these movements do so to back up a campaign for those in need.