Reflection: ProjectFEM’s Feminist Fashion Catwalk and Exhibition

High on the buzz of the debut ProjectFEM fashion event, Founder Holly Campbell reflects on the day, thanks all involved and offers food for thought for the next epic event…

The event was truly a success. After months of planning and exasperating hard work Danielle, Annie, Georgie and I managed to pull together our first event working late nights and weekends around our full time jobs. We emailed until our fingers were numb, persistently pitched for funding and flyered until we ran out of places to go; it all paid off on the day and we seamlessly improvised through unexpected challenges.

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The Team: Annie (Media), Holly (Director), Georgie (Stylist), Danielle (Event Manager at Cargo)

We welcomed guests including the Women’s Equality Party’s Sophie Walker and Catherine Meyer, plus size model Jada Sezer, activist model Rain Dove and America’s Next Top Model’s first gay contestant Cory Wade. All of whom were incredibly passionate about the cause and recognised the necessity of opening a conversation about the detrimental impacts of fashion around gender, beauty, diversity and representation. Sophie Walker gave a captivating speech about WEP’s #NoSizeFitsAll body image campaign, in which a fundamental component is to pressure London mayer Sadiq Khan into withdrawing funding from London Fashion Week for shows that do not cast at least one model of size 12 or above. Our audience were reassuringly engaged and opened up further important conversations around body image and fashion. Take action here.

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Sophie Walker, Leader of the Women’s Equality Party, speaking on 09.09.16

Then the show began! Our models were beaming with confidence and excitement and it showed. Designers included Gudrun & Gudrun, a sustainable knitwear brand and Neon Moon a feminist lingerie brand. Each look made a statement through visual culture in terms of gender and beauty.

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VIPs at the ProjectFEM event, 09.09.16

Diversity and representation are our fundamental aims and integral to our values and mission. We were successful in achieving racial diversity amongst our cast of models and we had a range of genders and ages. However, we recognise that we did not capture a cast as representative as we had hoped. We had two recruited plus-sized models and a model with physical disabilities, but at the last  minute they pulled out which was out of our control. This meant that we did not manage to represent physical disability in the show, whilst invisible disabilities were present amongst our cast.

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Catwalk Finale, 09.09.16

Upon reflection, as much as we advertised through social media, flyered and put out casting calls with a diverse modelling agencies, we struggled to capture the amount of transgender, age and ability diverse models as we wanted. We were inundated with applications from models from ranging ethnic background but found it a real task to reach those with broader ranging underrepresented qualities. Starting the project we thought individuals from these groups would eager get involved. Upon reflection, this challenge shows that if there is no consistent mainstream space for these people then how can there exist an aspiring population of models ready to jump at our adverts? We advertised with a diverse modelling agency but that brought us only young, slim and ethnically diverse models. Diversity is more than that.

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Models from the ProjectFEM Catwalk, 09.09.16

This exemplifies the need for us to continue our work in advocating true human representation within fashion. To achieve that we need to provide opportunities, hope and change for human beings who are completely unrepresented by the fashion industry. We need to give them the space to become models in the first place, to pressure fashion week organisers, designers and advertising agencies to allow equal space for these models. We cannot simply widen the goal posts of idealised beauty by having racial and size diversity, we need to reinvent those ideals from a deeper grassroots level with the radical value that we are all beautiful, all races, abilities, genders, sizes and ages included.

We cannot merely broaden the goal posts of what or who is considered idealised beauty, we need to revolutionise what we are told beauty is. If people outside the stereotypical ideal are not represented then they are unlikely to aspire to become models. We must provide that empowerment and a platform for them to do so. We have learnt a tremendous amount from hosting our first event and our values, drive and integrity has never been stronger!

Feedback from models following the event:

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Feminist Fashion Catwalk & Exhibition, Friday 9th Sept, Shoreditch London

We are hosting our first event under ProjectFEM.

Experience a truly empowering and inclusive fashion culture with diverse and representative models and ethically and socially responsible designers.

We are working with the Women’s Equality Party’s #NoSizeFitsAll body image campaign to combat the ideals perpetuated by the current fashion industry.

Let’s join forces and create the change we NEED to see in the world! 

Tickets: http://bit.ly/2bJPjvB

Your Clothing Affects the World: Why We Need a Cultural Shift Towards Ethical Fashion

Reduce, reuse, recycle: the mantra of the preachy “environmentalists” in their earthy get-up and ever-so-slightly self-righteous gaze. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate their efforts and their commitment to Mother Earth. I am a strong believer in forming my opinions based on well-researched evidence, and a minimal amount of research into the true causes of our world’s issues led me to a well, so deep and hidden, that everyone is falling right into it. In truth, the number two pollutant of the flowing rivers and evergreen forests (right behind oil) is the fashion industry.

The thing about the current fashion industry (depending on your customer base, we’ll assume the average person residing in a developed country) is that the trends are constantly changing and the popular stores have to meet those trends to stay popular. Translation: produce tons of clothing for an incredibly cheap price so that if the trend suddenly disappears, you don’t face a huge deficit. That sounds like a great idea for profit, so the only problem is finding a way to make clothing so that it’s actually cheap.

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Photo: The Guardian

While most people don’t condone the idea of a sweatshop, many don’t understand that almost all of the clothing an average American buys was made by a person, usually a woman, in an uncomfortably hot room filled with other people. This person has no workers’ benefits and no say in how much they’re paid, which is very little (let’s not even get into the pollution and filth it pours into the environment: do your own research). If they protest against anything, from wages to working conditions, they are fired with the promise that there is someone who wants their job more (a chilling thought reminiscent of early 1900s America). We can blame the industry and the big businesses like Forever 21 and American Apparel (some of the worst) for cutting corners and being generally shady as fuck, but ultimately they are just trying to achieve what every business is trying to achieve: profit. It comes down to our responsibility as a consumer to purchase things that are responsible and ethical, and that requires an entire culture shift.

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Photo: Made in America Movement

There are an incredible amount of businesses that make ethical clothing, but the only problem is that their prices are significantly more costly than what we’re used to. This is because all of their clothing is handmade and ethical, from the fabric to the dye to the price of labor. Our culture is one of consumption, and celebrities are often mocked for wearing the same thing twice. I suggest something entirely opposite. Even if you continue to shop at Forever 21 and Walmart for now, truly consider your purchases. Would you wear that shirt 30 or 40 times? And how much would you be willing to pay for a shirt that you wear 30 or 40 times? I’m okay with buying a quality, $40 dollar shirt if it was ethically made and sustainable because I’m going to wear that shirt for at least the next two years. I can guarantee (from personal experience) that this is a life-changing concept. I love all of my clothing. I wear it all. Everything I choose to adorn myself in is a representation of me and I feel like I am truly who I am in all of it.

Turning to ethical fashion does not limit your options, even though it will feel like it at first. Do your research (there are several documentaries on Netflix) and think about exactly what you want to put on your body because every choice you make has an impact on the world.

 

Author: Bella Sloane – BellaSloane@live.com

Our 8 Fave Feminist Pieces You Can Get Right Now!

We have hand picked our top 10 favourite feminist pieces that you can get your hands on right now. From tees to totes and necklaces, these pieces will help you to express your feminist identity through your wardrobe and smash the stigma around the F-word!

 

  1. The Female Collective – Girl Power Tee

Female Collective TeeThe Female Collective, $30, Size XS to XL

We love the striking iconic print on this unisex tee, timeless and versatile, this is the perfect addition to your feminist wardrobe. The Female Collective, based in LA, was established as a movement to uplift and empower women, check out their range!

2. Elizabeth Ilsley – Hand Painted Custom Jackets

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Elizabeth Ilsley, Email for Commissions

Ilsley’s provocative designs are aimed at “empowering women and getting rid of taboos“, which she evokes through  her hand painted art on jackets, boots and jeans. At just 21 years-old, Ilsley has commissioned for Slaves and her collection is set to grace Liberty of London.  Check out her collection here.

3. Feminist Apparel  – Activist Socks

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Feminist Apparel, £9.10, US Size 6-10

Feminist Apparel have been combatting the stigma around feminism since launching in 2013 and they have taken smashing the patriarchy one *step* further by adding a feminist sock collection to their line. Now you can stay *grounded* in your feminist roots…

 

4. GRLCLB – Custom Stitched Tees 

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GRLCLB.com, £15-£25, Size XS – XL

The GRLCLB collective hosts a blog with a shop of hand stitched tees with empowering and thought-provoking messages. The tees are single-handedly made by  #GRLBOSS Roobs who also takes commissions for designs. We love the current and meaningful feminist statements made with each top.

5. Denise Bidot- There Is No Wrong Way To Be A Woman Tee

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A Denise Bidot Brand,  $32.99, Size S-XXL

Plus size supermodel Denise Bidot launched the There Is No Wrong Way To Be A Woman campaign to encourage women to feel confident and comfortable in their own skin, irrespective of the restrictive beauty standards imposed on us. We love the authentically diverse ad campaign used for the collection. About time! See it all here www.thereisnowrongwaytobeawoman.com

7. Modern Women – Feminist Art Tote

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Modern Women, $15

LA designer and artist Sarah Faith Gottesdiener established the pro-art, pro-feminist brand Modern Women which promotes intersectional feminist messages on totes, tees and prints. Now you can shop with feminist style with this statement tote!

8. I Don’t Want To Be A Princess – Tee

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I Don’t Want To Be  A Princess, $24.99, S-XXL

The mission behind the I Don’t Want To Be A Princess movement is much needed. Girls are reinforced with pink, frilly messages that they will grow up to be a princess, with the silent ladylike behaviour that goes with it. This movement launched t-shirts for girls and women with an alternative; the tees make statements such as ‘Fierce’ and ‘Confident’, providing girls with a broader and more empowering outlook of who they can aspire to be.

10. Love From Hetty & Dave – Frida Kahlo Necklace 

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Love From Hetty & Dave, £20

Pay homage to the ultimate feminist artist, Frida Kahlo, with this handmade leather necklace. What better way to demonstrate your feminism than by having Frida dangling around your neck? We love the matching earrings and brooch too!

 

We have launched a CrowdFunder page so you can now support our mission of sustaining positive social change through fashion here –> http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/ProjectFEM “One bee can’t frighten an elephant, but a swarm of bees can kill it”. Let’s unite and make the difference we need to see in the world!

 

Author: Holly C x

Fashion in Iran: Censorship, Activism and the Revival

The fashion industry in Iran has very much seen its downfall in the past year. Lets rewind back to 2015, where there was an insurgence of fashion shows with agencies such as Behpooshi and Darab who were government approved to run fashion shows. Things were starting to look positive for the future of fashion in Iran. Designers, models, stylists and photographers were slowly emerging from the underground fashion scene to make an impact on this monumental shift in industry. 

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(Models at Behpooshi preparing for a show)

But within the last year, the Iranian government rained on everyone’s joyous fashion parade, and shackled the industry with the iron bars of censorship. Shackling, in the literal sense for some. Earlier this year and towards the end of 2015, there was an Instagram controversy storm, whereby over 100 industry people (including models, photographers and make up artists) were arrested in a covert crackdown nicknamed ‘Operation Spider 2’. Javad Babayi, Head of cybercrimes court has been quoted in an Iranian local news agency suggesting that the covert operation is being used as a means to, “monitor (the) use of social media by western imperialism powers to change Iranian – Islamic lifestyle 

As a writer, I am currently sitting and writing in the comforts of my western privilege whereby I have the freedom of speech and expression. Notoriously, Iran is not so well known to advocate for these rights. A concept many Iranian industry experts were well aware of. Behpooshi and Darab in particular famously confined under the regulations of the Iranian government in that they ran their agencies in accordance with Islamic values and also used their platforms to promote Iranian fashion rather than the western imperialist dominance Mr Babayi was so concerned about. Behpooshi site has actually (within the last couple of weeks in fact) been shut down.  

13552643_10206532283727472_176808050_n(From the Behpooshi website)

So why then, were prominent Iranian figureheads such as Elham Arab arrested for “promoting western promiscuity”? Whilst male models and fashion influencers were also arrested, the majority of the arrests fell amongst female models that dared to post photos without the required hijab. Are these arrests concerning the clamping down on western influence, reinforcing Islamic values or is it simply the classic dominance of the patriarchy?

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(Elham Arab in court)

The Iranian fashion industry is a huge market, with so much potential and talent. If the industry acts within the confines of Iranian- Islamic values as previously proposed, there is no reason why the Iranian government should not champion the production and influence of fashion within the country. Islamic fashion is certainly gaining momentum, with Dolce and Gabbana releasing a line of headscarf’s and Islamic clothing. With the likes of the popular Iranian fashion brand Pooshema, who are pushing boundaries by creating colourful, modern, shorter styles of the traditional manteaux, there is still hope for a revival in the Iranian fashion industry.  

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(Dolce and Gabbana)

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(Spring Summer 2015, Pooshema)

I managed to get into contact with Mahan Farokhmehr, the mastermind behind Darab. Darab describes itself as:

“A designer of special events and conferences in the fashion field. It expands the innovative designs and fashions and follows international professional designers in the way of creating novel and diverse ideas in the fashion industry.”

 

Darab has recently been dismantled. As a beacon of hope in changing and innovating the fashion industry in Iran, the disintegration of the brand will be a shock to many. Mr Farokhmehr has said that his decision on this matter is due to the “industry, as it became the biggest risk for those who want to spend their time and energy on this field”. On discussing the decline of the fashion industry in Iran, Mr Farokhmehr expressed his disappointment: “we were hopeful when we started, because we thought we could do something in this industry.”

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This certainly is not the end of Mahan Farokhmehr career. He is already looking to expand and culminate young Iranian talent from the underground fashion scene. Below are designs by Nastaran Hashemi, which Mr Farokhmehr helped procure and shoot.  

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We did Modern But With Traditional Textile and Touch Which Made It look Fashionable and at the same time traditional cause I had this concept in mind that we have to do something that involve our culture and traditions” Mahan Farokhmehr

The fashion industry is a new phenomenon in Iran, and my goal is to display a new point of view by presenting designs inspired by different cultures and beliefs, and merging them together, so I can introduce Iran to the global world of fashion –Nastaran Hashemi

With the likes of Mahan Farokhmehr, Nastaran Hashemi and the mighty underground fashion scene, there is hope that there will be a revival of creativity and fashion in Iran.

Author: Nasim Salad

Our Top 5 Change Makers for Diversity in Fashion

To highlight those in the world of fashion who are championing diversity and positive change, we have selected our favourite change makers to showcase the positive action being taken in the industry today…

  1. Lorde Inc.

Lorde Inc., a London based modelling agency, were established in 2013 by 26 year old founder Nafisa Kaptownwala. The agency recruits only models of colour to encourage racial diversity within the industry. As highlighted in our London Fashion Week article, non-white models are severely underrepresented demonstrating a deep-routed racial imbalance. In an interview with Nylon Nafisa criticises the lack of authentic diversity in alternative agencies, and aspires to normalise non-white models by making them readily available for hire with the aim of making models of colour a principle part of fashion, opposed to the tokenised or culturally appropriated representations that we see all too often.

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  1. Rein London

The high-end brand Rein was established in 2015 by London College of Fashion graduates Rebecca Morter and Gemma Vanson, with an explicitly feminist focus on ‘celebrating the female form, inspired by and for women…exploring clothing’s ability to empower’. Rein use visual culture through their designs to challenge social constructions of acceptability with revealing cut-outs and sheer materials. Furthermore, the designers value ethical manufacturing through using only local and sustainable sources. In Rein’s short history, they have already had much success including debuting at London Fashion Week in 2015 and dressing established women such as Lady Gaga. Rein’s success makes us hopeful that we can pave the way for feminism within fashion, not only through designs, but in explicit associations with feminism, sustainability and social action.

  1. Rain Dove

Androgynous model Rain Dove identifies as agender and has modelled for both men and womenswear collections such as Chromat and Malan Breton.  Not only is Rain breaking boundaries of gender on the catwalks, but is also using their knowledge and experiences to advocate for gender diversity within fashion. In an interview with Buzzfeed Rain says: “The gender thing doesn’t exist; it’s a social construct you don’t have to fit into… I model as all genders. I model as a human being”. Rain takes a refreshingly critical stance on gender constructs and fashion; season by season we see designers construct and reconstruct the idea of gender, of androgyny, femininity and masculinity, but Rain is using their voice to evoke positive change for more genderless clothing campaigns. Rain recognises the power fashion has to change the world and is using their platform to encourage that.

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  1. Claire Barrow

London based designer Claire Barrow debuted her work at London Fashion Week 2013. At just 23 Barrow caught her break when one of her iconic hand-painted leather jackets was featured in Vogue. Not only are we inspired by Barrows journey of running a business alongside a degree as well as maintaining her creative work at just 23, but her ‘do-it-yourself’ ethos which reflects British subculture is culturally and politically engaging.  The inspiration from Barrow’s artwork ranges from feminist statements within girl gangs to recognising the prospects for young people today. We highlighted Barrow in our London Fashion Week article as the only designer to use a plus-size model, and to represent ethnic and age diversity. Barrows used male and female models to showcase her genderless collection, and continues to make political and current statements through her work.

 

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  1. Lucy Jones

In 2015 Lucy Jones won the Womenswear Designer of the Year award for her Seated Collection, which consists of accessible clothing focusing on aesthetic and comfort for wheelchair users. The collection was inspired by a fashion assignment which aimed to change the world; Jones recognised that people with disabilities are overlooked within fashion and wanted to make accessible solutions. To achieve this, Jones researched over 100 people with disabilities, all of whom felt marginalised by the fashion industry. Jones began to notice and solve the issues of accessibility faced by wheelchair users and their clothes, such as reinforcing sleeves and altering the cut of trousers. Jones believes that disability should be considered in a designers approach to design from the outset, as most wheelchair users have to simply make do with uncomfortable and impractical clothing, compromising either style or accessibility.

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Positive and genuinely representative images of race, disability, age and gender is fundamental to diversity within fashion and ultimately to the self-esteem of those observing and participating in it; from watching the catwalks to reading fashion magazines, the singular idealised image of accepted beauty which still permeates the industry is problematic, especially for young women. If fashion does not authentically reflect ethnically diverse, disabled, non-binary human beings, they are further marginalised from a culture which has such propensity to empower and change the world. The change makers highlighted are fundamental to sustaining positive and authentic diversity in the fashion industry, and we must value and champion those choosing to use their voice to create an inclusive culture.

Author:  Holly C

Use Your Voice!

It is fundamental to ProjectFEM that we promote a diverse range of people’s experiences, values and perspectives on our blog. We value hearing about your associations with fashion, beauty and the industry and what it means to you.

Whether you have years of experience within the fashion industry, or are passionate about social justice and creating change. We value each and every contributors voice and perspective.

We are welcoming anyone with a passion for our cause who has experience in writing, blogging or journalism to guest write a post for us. Don’t miss out on an exciting opportunity to voice your views and make a positive change, get in touch!

PROJECTFEM-BANNER ProjectFEM@Hotmail.com