So you may expect that I was happy to see the marriage of feminism and fashion in Chanel’s Spring/Summer 2015 runway show on September 30th during Paris Fashion Week. But upon watching the show, I was disappointed in Karl Lagerfeld’s (creative director of Chanel) feminist protest theme.
The Grand Palais venue in Paris was designed to replicate a Parisian street (titled “Boulevard Chanel.”) Models in modern, colorful interpretations of the classic Chanel tweed suit walked down the runway clutching protest signs with messages like “Make Fashion Not War,” “History is Her Story,” and the flippant “Men Should Get Pregnant Too.” Models also carried Chanel clutches with sayings like “Ladies First” and “Feministe Mais Feminine” (“Feminist but feminine.”) Some models like it-girl Cara Delevingne even carried Chanel megaphones, chanting for freedom.
Karl Lagerfeld’s Chanel show seems hypocritical considering in a 2009 interview Karl Lagerfeld implied feminists are ugly. In the Harper’s Bazaar interview, Lagerfeld pretends to answer as Coco Chanel. The interviewer asks, “Your clothing liberated women in the 1920s. Are you still a feminist?” To which Lagerfeld as Coco Chanel responds, “I was never a feminist because I was never ugly enough for that.” Ouch. I will, however, credit Coco Chanel for popularizing pants and other traditionally masculine silhouettes for women.
If Lagerfeld really wanted to put on a runway show celebrating the feminist movement, maybe he should have considered casting more women of color. If radical was what he was going for, he should have deviated from the majority of models being white, tall, and thin. The Chanel collection just promotes the exclusivity of white feminism, which isn’t really feminism at all.
Let’s not forget that Chanel is exorbitantly expensive. I find it hard to call Chanel “radical” when it’s such an exclusionary brand. Feminism needs to be inclusive of all women, regardless of class, race, gender identity, or sexuality. Models wearing garments worth thousands of dollars holding protest signs just doesn’t seem to mesh well.
Between Beyoncé’s performance at the Video Music Awards in August, and Emma Watson’s United Nations speech and launch of the “He for She” campaign, “feminism” and “feminist” have become buzzwords in the media. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great that feminism is getting exposure — but the Chanel runway show is just capitalizing on the trendiness of the movement.
I do believe that fashion and feminism can successfully merge, just not in this case. The Chanel show is just commercialized feminism. To put it plainly, it’s style without the substance. Personal style can be a source of empowerment for many women, but the fashion industry has to make some serious changes before I’ll consider Karl Lagerfeld and other designers as contributors to the feminist movement.