Is Fashion empowering wo-men?
Well, it all depends on what you call Fashion actually.
I was having this conversation with friends about the place fashion has or could or should have (that’s a lot of possibilities, I know) in what we generally call women’s empowerment. One of them asked: “Has fashion really anything to do
with empowering women, with their freedom, their ability to stand for themselves, their body, their role in society and the way it evolves?
And…in a certain way, those questions – the way they were raised – found a certain echo on me.
So yes, what is fashion actually? Does it represent the reflection and expression of people in a specific context only? Fashion tells so much about people indeed, about
how they live, how they conceive life and society, how they perceive themselves, their philosophy and beliefs, too. On the other hand, we also need to take all the economic impact, the branding and manufacturing process of the fashion industry into account. And there is so much to talk about, good and bad. When it is used to impose a one and only canon of beauty, when it exploits poor workers (mainly uneducated women) in unsafe factories, when it dictates what looks good and what does not, when it causes ecological calamities, – that Fashion-, indeed, has nothing to do with women’s empowerment nor any positive impacts on society.
Then, while we still witness total disasters from the fast Fashion industry, let’s face it, we can on the reverse see the emergence of positive initiatives for a slow, more ethical, inclusive and green fashion, empowering women and respecting the environment, redefining thus the whole concept of Fashion.
That being said, I would like to focus on Fashion as a way of personal perception and expression, and how it could contribute to a positive change and empower them.
Yes to Fashion for more inclusion and representation.
We were still all surprised by the latest fashion shows: covered, and more colored models walking on the runways, bringing something totally new in the catwalks from mainstream fashion. But it is not like diversity is something new, right? Have designers finally started to realize the importance and the beauty lying in diversity? We know how richer we all are in making Fashion more representative of all the women, of all the people in fact.
However, we can see more and more ethical and modest wearing (faith based or not) brands selling not only pieces of fabrics to women and men feeling more comfortable in them, but also ideas, building communities, bringing and connecting people (especially women) together. We can also see badass entrepreneurs and inspirational men and women, working together to bring in such a creative way added value in the Fashion world and at the same time in our society.
Finally, we can see more and more mainstream brands, luxury brands and fashion shows starting to include minorities, which is always positive in a certain way, at least for the representation.
If the definition of Fashion is constantly evolving, it certainly means that its social and economical correlations, in this case with women, will change too. Society has still a lot to do to cope the negative impact of fast fashion, and for now Fashion doesn’t empower all the women, that is a reality. But when Fashion brings new colors to that monochromatic scene we used to watch before, when Fashion contributes in shaping an inclusive society, when Fashion builds bridges, we can be more optimistic and still hope for a better future, don’t we?
This article is an introduction to a series I’m working on called #WomenEmpowerWomen in Fashion. Stay tuned.