what relationship is there today between rights and sustainability

“I am anguished and embittered by the violence that continues to exist in Milan”, commented Chiara Ferragni on social media at the beginning of July, arousing the interest of the mayor of the city Beppe Sala. Then there were Altagamma and the National Chamber of Italian Fashion deployed in support of the Draghi Government (RIP) and, before that, a wave of social reprisals by fashion brands against the US Supreme Court for making the right to abortion. In short, the world is not in the best of waters and fashion does not hold back. Yet, when fashion system and politics meet the reactions are always conflicting: for some, given theirs resonancebrands and celebrities have the duty to express yourself on political and social issues; for others, when fashion explicitly crosses the boundaries of the superfluous to bother issues “bigger than her” it is just marching on the situation. So is fashion political? When he doesn’t take sides, should he do it instead? Or when it does, it’s just the umpteenth exploitation for marketing purposes? What is it doing and what more could it do to change the world we live in for the better? And above all, does it really have this power?

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The questions are endless, but let’s go in order: the one between fashion and politics is one liaison that starts from afar. Perhaps the first example of political contamination in fashion lies in the phenomenon of power dressing, when in the ’70s women began to “dress in code” for work to win the respect of the male counterpart. Today, power dressing has evolved into uniform dressing, or the idea of ​​creating a look based on the repetition of key elements that make us immediately recognizable (Steve Jobs’s turtleneck, Kamala Harris’ Converse), but the concept remains the same: the dress makes the monk and through the our clothing we have the power to control our image. In a broader sense, what does the fashion a political tool it is first and foremost the role it plays in the sphere of personal expression and self-definition. But we don’t stop there: like it or not, as an art form, fashion is affected by its time and feeds on the socio-political context that surrounds it. For this reason, over the years there have been no shortage of striking cases in which the fashion system has decided to openly take sides on topical issues: almost all luxury brands have spoken out in support of the issue of gender, inclusion and diversity, sustainability.

us politics pride rights

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A powerful weapon available to fashion are the slogans decorating clothes – with the risk, of course, of being emptied of meaning and becoming simple ornamental elements, but we get there. Last year, al Met Gala 2021, Cara Delevingne showed up in a bulletproof top with the words “Peg the Patriarchy” signed Dior by Maria Grazia Chiuriwho had already tried the path of graphic T-shirts with the now famous “We should all be feminists” t-shirt – at the center of controversy that wanted her to be an example of exploitation and promotion of a small amount of feminism. At the same Met Gala, US politics Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez flaunted the slogan “Tax the Rich” written in large letters on a white dress (which historically recalls the Suffragette). Again, the move sparked mixed reactions, leaving even Vanessa Friedman baffled. After all, Ocasio-Cortez was speaking from the pedestal of a super exclusive event full of those rich people that her dress incited to tax, how credible could it be?

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Then there are those who over the years have brought the events directly on the catwalk. For the fashion show of Chanel from Spring Summer 2015Karl Lagerfeld organized a real one feminist march led by Cara Delevingne complete with a megaphone, followed by a fleet of models in suits of tweeds and colorful prints that raised signs like “History is Herstory” and “Ladies First”. A controversial choice, but also a sensible one compared to the history of Chanel: in wartime, in fact, Gabrielle was among the first designers to think about comfort and practicality also for the female wardrobe, freeing the body of women from corsets and crinolines.

chanel spring summer 2015


Each Gucci show is also a declaration of intentespecially when it comes to break down gender differences: from opening the way to the “unique fashion show” without distinction between male and female to the continuous promotion of fluid fashion through campaigns and celebrity endorsement. For the Cruise 2020Alessandro Michele had celebrated the law on divorce and that for the voluntary termination of pregnancy of the 70s at the rate of embroidered uteri and slogans “My Body My Choice” – images recently exhumed by the brand to lash out against the Supreme Court decision of June 2022 to cancel the Roe v. Wade jeopardizing the right to abortion in the United States. A dark and anachronistic moment in American history, which also raised reactions from the models Kaia Gerber And Bella Hadid and brands like Etro, Bottega Veneta and Patagonia – which has even proposed to pay the travel to employees who have to go to a federal state where abortion is still legal -.

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Indignation and protests fly through social media: the statement released on Instagram that aesthetically break up the pompous feeds of the brands, as if to trace a moment of silence from all the clamor of the excited fashion circus, are the most used weapon. And the problem is right here. At the end of February 2022, fashion and politics found themselves screeching as much as ever before: while war broke out in Ukraine and the palaces of Kiev were gutted by bombing, a Milan besieged by the people of fashion and by jet-set international kept the calendar of the fashion week Fall Winter 2022 no holds barred. The estrangement was skyrocketing, it seemed that the world was running on two different timelines. Of course, all the brands have spoken out in defense of Ukraine, on Instagram they flocked statement conscience washersbut perhaps this is where we realized that the reaction posts on social media are not enough, quite the contrary contribute to making tragedies and great political turning points just “another piece ofinfinite scroll, disposable phenomena to be consumed in a second between one reel and another and then forgotten the next day. For BalenciagaDemna Gvasalia if nothing else managed to transfer that overwhelming sense of anguish and brutality in the clothes on the catwalk, while Armani (which even at the dawn of Covid was the first to cancel a parade) opted for a fashion show mutewithout soundtrack, to send the message that yes, now the fashion show that had been prepared for months had to be done, but there was nothing to celebrate. But they are exceptions.

balenciaga fall winter 2022

Latest look of Balenciaga FW22, following one in yellow – reference to the Ukrainian flag.

Courtesy of Press OfficeImaxtree

The same thing happens every day with the sustainability. Hear about large conglomerates and giants about sustainable manufacturing fast fashion makes you turn up your nose, yet “it must be done”. And so we fall back into the phenomenon of greenwashing. In short words, fashion with respect to politics sits in an awkward position: on the one hand, its involvement is essential both because, like every creative and productive sphere, it is influenced by its own time, and because to build and nurture a community (and not to be accused of sloth) it is essential to expand one’s narrative making the brand a way of life; on the other, often the “mission” so ostentatious is more marketing than anything else. Yet fashion can play an important role in shaking consciencesit just needs to be used well. More and more it is toaudiencethat is to us, the arduous task of obtaining informationstudy, understand who is really trying to bring about a change and who instead just wants to curry favor with a wider audience.

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About David Martin

David Martin is the lead editor for Spark Chronicles. David has been working as a freelance journalist.

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