MAJOR PROJECT: Research // Feminism through fashion

 Images are sourced from: Married to the Mob, Style.com and DI$COUNT

I am just going to go out there and say I was wrong, very wrong. I had always intended to add plenty of precedents who have affected the fashion industry with feminist messages but I was wrong in thinking that there were many out there. To be frank, it appears that the most obscene and outspoken designers making slogan wearables aimed at proud outlandish feminist women are very small labels, with a limited clientele and many critics, feminist critics. So that leads me to the next argument - can Fashion and Feminism be friends? My simple answer is, hell yes it can.


From Australia's own emerging fashion anarchists DI$COUNT, to Prada, to Married to the Mob, I aim to briefly explore the ways in which the feminist designers make a statement through their clothes. 
I have been following the journey of Nadia and Cami from DI$COUNT blog for many years now. They were always the wild crazy edgy goth girls in my Bloglovin' feed who had the time to create or remodel the most bizarre, colourful DIY clothing which they would then sell on their website for a small fortune. The design duo have been coined as quirky, ghetto, space, goth feminists with a mission to bring colour, sequins and nudity in offensively excessive quantities. Most people would view DI$COUNT's 2014 fashion week show and blink in disbelief at the shockingly bold and ugly nature of something so heavily detailed that slightly resembles the crayon artwork of a 6 year old. However, Nadia and Cami look past the conventional ideas of fashion and merge the grotesque and obscene with convincing attitude. This is an attitude that is reflected amongst their devoted fan base which are largely made up of artists, musicians and brave socialites. 
DI$COUNTS mentality aligns with the sex positive feminism I spoke about in the previous post. 

That is the mentality that a woman should be sex positive - 
"Sex-positive feminism centres on the idea that sexual freedom is an essential component of women's freedom". 
DI$COUNTS 2014 collection graphically and typographically sends quirky deal-with-it feminist statements with visuals of breasts, ugly and abstract enlarged women's faces with running mascara, naked female silhouettes, sequinned fingernails on skin coloured (and tight) bodysuits, edgy motorcycle jackets and a maxi-dress with "YOU WILL NEVER OWN ME" emblazoned on the front. 

Another label adopting the deal-with-it mindset is Married to the Mob, who hail from NYC. Their aesthetic is Tumblr-teen approved edgy and affordable graphic tees, beanies, sweaters and much more. However their label is getting mixed responses, with feminists calling their Supreme Bitch slogan "degrading" and "offensive to the wearer". However the designers at MTTM have defended their bold outspoken clothing slogans stating that their fashion is actually out there as a feminist statement -
Like Riot Grrrls who started their movement as a response to the all male punk rock music scene, when Leah Mcsweeney decided to start her line, Married To The Mob, she wanted to create the first female street-wear brand and give a voice to girls in the male dominated skateboard community. She chose to use the famous skateboard/street-wear brand Supreme’s logo, and added the word bitch to it, poking fun at the often misogynistic views of skateboard culture. - Alexandra Weiss
“Recently somebody called me a whore on twitter,” she recalls, “and said you can’t get mad when you say ‘sleep with whomever you want’ on a t-shirt. Obviously that person just didn’t understand the meaning behind that shirt, which is not ‘go sleep with everyone that exists.’ It’s more about not having to feel guilty about sleeping with who you want and the double standards that women have to deal with, and men not regarding their amount of sexual partners.” - Leah McSweeney
Leah McSweeney also states in the same articles that, "... girls have been scared to call themselves feminists", which only rings true to me from experience in the women, young and old that I have come across in my life, and it breaks my heart that they feel this way. I believe the work of some radical feminists have spoiled it for everyone, by giving the movement a bad name for wanting to bring down men, even lower than women in retaliation for their gender's control of women in the past. This is not what feminism is about and because of this war between aggressive misandry feminism and the mainstream feminism for equality, the lines are blurring causing designers to steer away from gender issues such as feminism in their collections to avoid losing customers.

I have never been a huge fan of large fashion labels, they have just never appealed to me. Despite Prada creating an obviously feminist statement within S/S 2014, I still have no connection, and that is probably only because of the age target group. However, I must deeply express my admiration of Miuccia's ongoing feminism, designed in such a quaint and respectable fashion that doesn't throw an ideology in someone's face. It doesn't scream extreme, it doesn't scream crazy or bold. Feminism does not need to be blunt and rude to place a point. Feminism can be intelligent and sweet and inviting, and I think that has been achieved in this collection, and it is why Miuccia Prada is such a highly revered and accomplished designer.

The visuals of bras over the clothes is a bold statement, but those who are not too sharp would completely look past the reference of a bra over clothing and mistake it for a torso decorative or a bra shaped-panel.


"More evidence of the “I am woman” mantra: emphasis on breasts – but not necessarily in a revealing way. Bras are placed on the outside of tops and shift dresses, many in a bold color or decked out in beading. Bra-inspired designs are also inset within the dresses." - Tanisha Wallis
 "Prada’s bra tops and bra-inspired insets aren’t quite as extreme as either of those. Of course, Madonna and Lady Gaga were technically wearing costumes. But Prada’s bra details can still be seen as a symbol of feminine power because they aren’t discreet. They are beaded and in colors that contrast with the color of the garment, making them stand out. Plus, the bra designs aren’t made from soft lace or mesh; the simpler designs are solid and sturdy, and at their most extreme (the beaded ones), they are hard and intricate. They are another symbol of strength – women aren’t all soft and delicate, as society has made them out to be for so long." - Tanisha Wallis

Finally someone was taking a stand for feminism and in a smart manner. How lucky women are to have Miuccia Prada who just happens to be the creative head behind one of the world's largest fashion labels providing mainstream luxury, and is a feminist at heart (a rarity in the fashion industry). Once a member of Milan's communist party, she has always had a penchant for activism. Like DI$COUNT, the theme of enlarged women's faces also featured in Prada's SS 2014, which saw 6 differing artists commissioned to provide the feminist art.
"I want to inspire women to struggle" - Miuccia Prada
Thanks to Style.com, under closer inspection I realised that the models were styled to be gang members, separated by codes of hair colour and graffitied eyelids. 

"These girls aren't sweet and innocent. There's a ganglike mentality to them." - Miuccia Prada

References:
Sarah Mower's review at Vogue
Tim Blanks review at Style.com
Tanisha Wallis' review at Reviewing the Arts
Alexandra Weiss' review at New School Free Press

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