by Francesca Salisbury
“WE SHOULD ALL BE FEMINISTS”, or so says Dior.
The slogan tees made their first appearance on the Dior Spring 2017 runway, referencing the 2014 essay of Nigerian feminist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and they caused quite a stir. But are these tees – with a price tag of approximately $710 dollars, no less – appropriating feminist culture for the sake of sales? Dior came under fire for riding the cultural wave of fashionable feminism, only to announce shortly afterwards their intention to donate part of the proceeds to pop star Rihanna’s charity, the Clara Lionel Foundation. The non-profit, founded in 2012, helps to fund emergency response situations, education and health improvements in impoverished areas of the world. A worthy cause, no doubt. But does this justify the so-called ‘appropriation’?
Certainly if Dior are to be criticised, then we cannot ignore the contributions of other fashion brands including Christian Siriano, Creatures of Comfort and Prabal Gurung to the so-called ‘Slogan Revolution’, having used phrases including “People are People”, “We Are All Human Beings” and “Revolution Has No Borders” respectively on catwalks this season.
Indeed, the idea of a slogan tee shirt is nothing new. The change that catwalks have witnessed this Spring/Summer is the distinctively political tone that many designers and high street stores (for I have spotted many a Dior lookalike in Topshop), have adopted. Whereas slogan tees in the past have been light-hearted or even comical – lest we forget Topshop’s infamous “NERD” and “GEEK” tees and sweatshirts – this season marks a turning point.
The real question is whether or not we should embrace this new era of political fashion, and ultimately whether fashion should even seek to involve itself in the world of politics. When I first walked past Dior’s impressive display in Selfridges a few weeks ago, I won’t deny that I was stunned. The simple but striking t-shirts shamelessly screamed their message, and despite strongly identifying as a feminist myself, I questioned whether it was right to have such a forceful, even revolutionary window display.
But that, of course, is exactly where the problem lies. Feminism in the 21st Century should not be regarded as revolutionary in character. What is ‘revolutionary’ about the equality of men and women? Just as musicians such as Beyoncé and Lorde have openly talked about feminism and even incorporated a degree of feminist sentiment into their songs, the fashion industry is now incorporating feminism into mainstream media and culture. What Dior, Topshop – and the plethora of designers and shops who will inevitably follow suit – are doing, regardless of their motivation, is normalising feminism as a presence in society. And that, in my eyes, can only be applauded.
Ultimately, I am willing to sacrifice appropriation for normalisation, because you know what? We should all be feminists.