According to the Oxford dictionary, feminism is defined as “the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.”
Throughout the history of feminism, women have used fashion as a tool to both highlight gender inequality and define for themselves what it means to be a woman. As a result, fashion has been heavily influenced by this movement. Although women in most parts of the world have achieved gender equality, feminist fashion is still something we can only look up to today: The fashion industry is far from championing the rights of women.
In fact, it is an extremely oppressive industry in many ways, impacting women all across the supply chain. To conclude this year’s international women’s month, we’ve highlighted the reasons for the anti-feminism of the fashion industry, as well as the inspiring initiatives we can all join to help reduce and once and for all, put an end to this misogynistic behaviour.
The garment workers
Many garment workers sew and make clothes in what is considered ‘modern day slavery conditions’. As the vast majority of garment workers in the fashion industry are women of colour (about 80%), this is an intersectional feminist issue as the women working in this industry are often objectified, underpaid and sexually harassed.
In order to help tackle this issue, there’s a few organisations we can all support from the comfort of our homes.
Fashion Revolution is a non-profit organisation aiming to put an end to human and environmental exploitation in the global fashion industry as well as providin safe, dignified working conditions and living wages for all people in the supply chain. They always have global campaigns and petitions going on, so it’s easy to be part of the movement and take action: you can start by signing the ‘Good Clothes, Fair Pay’ initiative here. Also, as a consequence of the Rana Plaza deaths, the organisation also runs a Fashion Revolution Week campaign every year at the end of April.
Another great non-profit organisation is Labour Behind The Label, always campaigning for garment workers rights worldwide. You can get involved in any of their campaigns online, all aiming at telling the truth about renowned brands and pressuring them in making a chance.
Models get constantly measured, told what they can eat, if they can eat and what they can do. On top of this distress, they often are exploited and sexually assaulted by photographers, designers and even agents.
The only ways for us to help tackle this issue is supporting the work of Model Alliance to help secure fair treatment and legal rights for models that are too often denied, as well as not buy any clothes from predatory designers. Shit Model Management, an anonymous agency, published a black list full of photographers, designers, agencies and other industry professionals who have sexually abused and raped models, so make sure to go back to this list if in doubt.
The women’s public image
Women who buy clothes are made to feel unworthy, unless they buy more stuff. The industry is continuously promoting over consumption, with new trends, fabrics and designs being released every single week, by certain fast-fashion brands.
Between fashion adverts that still present clearly violent, glorifying and sexualising abuse of women and the continuous body shaming that is brought forward by most traditional brands not being size-inclusive, the industry has a long way to go.
We can all help by reporting sexist advertisements we see on social media and in the streets, as well as asking the brands to change them and change their size charts. There’s a lot more size-inclusive brands nowadays, so try buying from those companies, even if you can find your size anywhere else.
The clothes we wear can be used to tell a story, communicate values and ideals, or express political solidarity but we certainly don’t want to put on clothes that tell a story of someone else’s exploitation and suffering. We’re big advocates in taking action in what we believe in, so we’re here to direct you to all the right places!
Cherchez La Femme team X
[info sourced on collectivefashionjustice.org, fashionrevolution.org, labourbehindthelabel.org; all images sourced on canva.com]