Being involved in fashion often brings me back to feminism, which leads me to fashion again, which takes me to feminism. Especially in today’s social scene, at this point, I think fashion and feminism are two things that cannot be conceptually or historically detached from one another. Which is why Chanel’s Ready-To-Wear Spring/Summer Paris 2015 show is attracting speculation and sparking controversy directed toward the center of the fashion industry, obviously, themselves. (The) Karl Lagerfeld, who designs the iconic Chanel pieces (and who is quite the fashion icon himself), staged an interesting feminism protest march in this season’s show. Watch it below:
The show was held in the Grand Palais, which Karl transformed into “Boulevard Chanel”, to set the show in a background resembling a European-style traditional sort of street. The clothes-I couldn’t find anything special about the clothes themselves, they were exactly, stereotypically what one would expect from a typical Chanel collection (except maybe more tweed). How the clothes changed throughout the show, however, is definitely something to take note of while watching the show, in regard of the message at the end of the show. What’s interesting though is that I’ve read plenty of reviews on the show(hello Refinery29 and Jezebel, both of which clearly weren’t buying the whole faux-protest theme, and The Cut, which seemed pretty neutral, and Fashionista and StyleList Canada, both of which praised Karl’s feminism festivity, and The Closet Feminist, which didn’t seem to keen on the idea but raised some interesting questions), and all of these reviews mainly hover on the slogans(which is understandable since I must admit some of them were TACKY) but none of them even mention or elaborate in detail on how the clothes developed and changed as the show went on. It’s funny because I actually thought the transformation of the Chanel pieces as the show progressed was one of the key factors to fully understanding the show itself and the story that Karl was trying to tell through this season’s show. At the beginning of the show, the models(all of which are women, except for one) are dressed in colorful tweed(SO, SO MUCH TWEED) and radiant ensembles of flowery, dotty patterns, reminding viewers of the 60s/70s.
(Georgia May Jagger)
(Saskia De Brauw)
This changes, however, when at around 4:06, the music becomes more uptight and so do the models’ walking formation and the clothes. The flowery long boots and fluffy clothes are nowhere to be seen, and lines of models looking more fierce and modernized with boxy shorts and blouses and shiny, chunky gold belts start parading down the city-themed runway, and instantly I’m feeling like I just stepped into a new era of women’s fashion and am witnessing the evolution of women’s style. And then at 9:18, this jumpy crowd of women wearing the colorful fashions of the first half of the show are literally jumping down the runway, overwhelming me with all these hand-written slogan signs, many of them representing feminism. The feminist slogans helped me to reach the understanding that the contrasting 60s/70s –> modern clothing style transition in the show was a part of expressing feminism throughout the ages. It was a pleasant twist to the whole show.
Women’s clothes have defined and shaped feminism, and I’m guessing that that’s what Karl was trying to portray through the transition in clothes (and obviously through the slightly tacky slogans, too). While I do agree with Refinery29 to some extent that the slogans were pretty ironically insignificant and, again, tacky, I still think the whole feminist movement reenactment was meaningful, in both the name of fashion AND feminism. Chanel is receiving A LOT of criticism from people saying that the whole feminism thing was shallow and thoughtless, merely a trend, but I on the other hand loved it! Feminism is a concept that still needs to be embraced by many more around the world and the fact that a global, central, influential fashion brand like Chanel is marking the recent revival of feminist spirit just goes to show that fashion is still doing what it’s excelled at all this time-bringing us back to feminism.
I teared up watching the ending of the show. I don’t think the slogans have to be oh-so-philosophically-deep or sophisticated. After all, it’s a display of suppressed feminist emotions and years and years of unfairness set in the 60s/70s of second-wave feminism. (I interpreted it as a reenactment, since the clothes the “activists” were wearing were those from the earlier parts of the show, and-as I explained above-I viewed the whole show as a sort of timeline for women and feminism and fashion.) In that sense Karl and Chanel succeeded in expressing what feminism feels like and what it meant for those women standing up front at those brave protests in the past. I don’t think it was shallow or materialistic at all; it was a powerful, iconic reminder of how we’re where we are at the moment, and of the decades-centuries of injustice and pain that so many women had to face. It was more than just a “runway stunt”, as many online fashion magazines are describing it. It was Karl Lagerfeld putting the final seal on the recent feminism issues all over SNS through a historically meaningful expressive medium-fashion. It was this controversial, exciting blend of feminism and fashion that inspired a certain strength and pride in being a woman that brought me to tears. (And not even the Titanic made me cry, so this probably means something. : )
Also, since I’m openly rooting for this show, I can’t help but
rebut respond to some quotes from other sites…
“You don’t need to be a CNN buff to get it: Between the unrest in the Middle East, police violence in Ferguson, this week’s uprisings in Hong Kong, and New York’s recent, massive march for climate change, there are plenty of issues worth protesting. But, when Karl Lagerfeld staged a “feminist protest” earlier today for Chanel’s Paris runway show, it felt, well, a bit twisted.”
I don’t know what Refinery29 is getting at here. Why on earth would the selection of feminism as a theme make you feel “twisted”? Sure, there are definitely a lot of other serious issues going on on our planet, and I think feminism is always and has always been one of them, online AND offline. Is feminism an issue NOT “worth protesting” anymore?
“…waving signs emblazoned with rather tepid political slogans like “Free Freedom” (whatever that means)…”
I think “Free Freedom” means that feminism is a type of freedom that has been locked up for so long and still hasn’t been fully freed, so Karl is making an ironic pun. Freedom is supposed to be free and natural, but feminism has not been in many places for such a long time.
“…this season presents protest as pure product, the irony of which we suspect Karl is both aware, and presides over with a provocative, Warholian glee.”
I disagree, Refinery29. You’re looking at the issue while holding an irrational grudge. What part of the closing act gives off the notion of “protest as pure product”…? (Well obviously except the fact that it’s a fashion show, although even that’s not that much of a rational conclusion to jump to either.) Of course we all know that Chanel is a company, which means it’s seeking to earn profit from selling clothes. But that doesn’t make it negative! If anything, Chanel should be praised for doing/representing something meaningful in the process. Fashion is one of the most effective ways to spread a message, and THAT’S what Karl knows.
“The messages are all very confused, and confusing, which gives the impression that Lagerfeld’s notion towards woman empowerment was merely gestural, or that he was responding to what he perceives as a trend, something that was written about while he was designing this.”
Like I stated waaay above in this post, I don’t think feminist slogans should have to include some sort of deep metaphor or whatever for it to be meaningful. People experience feminism and sexual injustice in many different forms and therefore it is expressed in many different methods of literary expression. Also, just a thought, but wouldn’t it seem more “gestural” or “trend”-like for Karl to implement totally cliché terms used in describing feminist emotions? Just sayin’.
“Also: why is his feminist vision SO F**KING WHITE?!”
Urrrmmm… I honestly do not know how to perfectly respond to this because there are just so many things that are wrong about this statement. All I can say at this point is, well, I’m pretty, very, really sure Karl didn’t deliberately place mostly Caucasian models on the runway to send the message that feminism is for a certain race…? I mean…I’m sure the people at Chanel weren’t like, “We need more ‘white’ models here! We need a higher ‘white’ ratio!”, right…? If they were, then that changes everything, but I’m pretty sure that wasn’t how it went…
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