Fashion and Feminism

A Different Kind of Fashion Lover

Most garments are cut and sewn by female factory workers in the developing world, where working conditions are poor and labour rates are low. Can you be a fashion lover and a feminist at the same time?

Can you be a fashion lover and a feminist at the same time?

I think upon hearing this question most people would struggle to find the reason why you would even ask. How would being a fashion lover and a feminist even be related?

Many high street brands even sell t-shirts espousing feminist messages and slogans. You can head online to boohoo and order all the new on-trend pieces while throwing a feminist t-shirt into your basket to show your support for the movement.

Hidden underneath the ‘feminist’ logo tees is a strong connection between fashion and feminism. Chances are, a woman made that ‘feminist’ t-shirt, and she made it in an exploitative environment, likely under the management of men making double, triple, maybe even 100 times more than her.

According to Fashion Revolution, 80% of garment workers are women. Most of the women producing clothes that we find in our favourite high street shops are often making barely enough to feed their families. The conditions they’re working in are far from pleasant, as well as being unsafe. Fires in garment factories are all too common.

Earlier today I was reading ‘To Die For – is Fashion Wearing Out the World?’ by the fantastic Lucy Siegle. She tells the story of a 15-year-old girl who worked in a sweatshop for a major brand who was regularly hit by managers and forced to take contraceptive pills. This is merely a glimpse into the horrors women experience in this industry.

The garment industry is something that should be high on the priority list for feminists. There are hundreds of thousands, if not millions of women, who spend long hours hunched over sewing machines every day. These women often have families to take care of. They cannot afford to leave these jobs and are effectively trapped in a cycle of exploitation.

Even despite all of this, I wouldn’t say you can’t be a fashion lover and a feminist.

This is because there is a different way of loving fashion, in fact there are many different ways.

You can be a lover of the fashion you already own. You don’t need to go out and purchase from fast fashion brands. The clothes you already own have value. You can find new ways to piece your items together that you love.

You can be a lover of thrifting. Thrifting isn’t the same as shopping in a fast fashion store. It involves exploration and creativity. You go in never knowing what you’re going to find. But it’s exciting, it allows you to be a true fashion lover. To find the fashion that you love, rather than the fashion that you’re told you should love.

You can be a lover of brands that empower women. There are fashion brands out there who thrive on this. One example is the brand Mayamiko. Their garments are artisanal and hand made. The process of making them takes care and a high level of skill. This allows the women to be empowered in what they create, they can see the garment through from start to finish.

Women who work in fast fashion garment factories are alienated from the pieces they create. They sew one stitch, over and over again. They don’t get to see the garment from start to finish. Brands like Mayamiko allow women to truly find value in their work.

So, my answer is yes, you can be a fashion lover and a feminist at the same time. But we need to look outside of the typical confines of a fashion lover. Loving fashion isn’t just about mindlessly consuming the latest fast fashion releases.

Loving fashion is about truly seeing value in our clothing. It’s about having an appreciation for not only the work that goes into the garments, but for the lives and wellbeing of the women who make them.  

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