The uniform of change making.
This morning I opened my very first ‘fashion revolutionary’ inspired product promo. It was from one eco and ethically minded lingerie company Naja. The product being advertised was a sports bra and the tagline read:
Be an active (ist) for women
Be an active (ist) for the planet
Be an active (ist) for yourself
The sportswear is being sold for $20 (mind you I can’t for the life of me find it on their website…. only the email). Covering the cost of manufacturing the socially made bra (made by single mothers) and the creation of the upcycled, recycled and digitally printed fabric. The additional dollar is given to Planned Parenthood. The purchase of this supportive garment links the women who designed and made it, with the women across the globe who are supporting each other and their friends and family in being ‘smart, courageous, outspoken’ and for being at the forefront of women’s rights and environmental sustainability over the next four years of Trump’s presidency.
Fashion as the supporter of revolution.
For some the idea that fashion can play a part in political, social and environmental revolution might seem a little strange or like a bit of a ‘gimmick’. However across time there have been strong ties between fashion and activism. In fact many of the largest rights movements or cultural revolutions have been memorably dressed or related to the way we create our garments. We will explore the role that fashion has played below in being fashionably revolutionary.
Believe it or not one of the most memorable fashion based movements was in fact started by garment workers! The Luddites a group of wool and cotton industry workers who really weren’t all that keen on the idea that machines could take their jobs. The adopted their name from a mythical man ‘King Ludd’ who lived in Sherwood forest (yup just like Robin Hood), and throughout 1811-1812 they spread from Nottinghamshire across the United Kingdom. In a ‘vikings’ style moment the workers broke into factories and destroyed machinery, sent menacing and threatening communications, and attacked employers and magistrates. The Luddite movement gained so much traction that the government was sent in and a ‘bounty’ style call our was put in their heads. In 1812 there were laws against the breaking of machines and 17 men were put to death as a result of their revolutionary actions. The moment continued for years later and uproars about the mechanisation of the textile industry continued until the mid 19th century.
Suffragettes were the women’s group developed in the late 19th century spanning to the early 20th century that fought for women’s right to vote in elections. While women the globe over fought for their right to vote, the ‘Suffragette’ term was most commonly applied to the UK moment started by the Women’s Social and Political Union. These groups were led by Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst, who were pretty peeved that by 1903 Britain’s women still couldn’t vote. Emmeline waged war on the on patriarchal Britain through radical and militant inspired tactics, with damage to property and hunger strikes that resulted in incarceration and force feeding. The Suffragettes embraced specific colours that they used in their flags, banners, and adornments such as rosettes and badges. In 1908 the Suffragettes even scored their own jewellery line thanks to London Jewellers Mapping & Webb. The most important part? After years of hard work women were given the right to vote in 1918 (as long as they were over 30 and had appropriate qualifications) and in 1928 all women over the age of 21 were allowed to vote.
In the 1960’s a youth subculture that embraced living in harmony with nature, creative and artistic expression, community, and recreational drugs. The hippie culture began in America but was embraced across the World. While there were MANY different outcomes from this counter culture moment (protest of war, Woodstock music festival, Women’s rights and liberation) one of the staying legacies has been fashion and values. Much of the fashion we see today was influenced in some way buy this counterculture. While fashion is fabulous it’s the hippie ‘values’ that are what we are embracing in the form of sustainability, conscious, and ethical living. The hippie movement was strongly grounded in equality, the importance of nature, and the infusion of Eastern Philosophy with western living. Some of this ‘hippie’ stuff has become so entrenched in the way we live now that it might surprise many that meditation, yoga and mindfulness were all brought to us by fabulously well dressed hippie folk.
Is there a revolution accompanied by fashion that you relate to? Perhaps you want to share it below? Please do!