12:37 “We Should All Be Feminists:” When Fashion Trends Cross The Line

fashion trends - group with feminist tshirts on
This is what a feminist looks like.
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Outside of the fashion trends, one of the highlights of New York Fashion Week was the unveiling of Dior artistic director Maria Grazia Chiuri’s debut collection, and alongside ‘J’ADIOR’-emblazoned handbags, one of the standout pieces was a white tee with the words ‘We Should All Be Feminists’ printed in bold capital letters.

Taken from the title of an essay published in 2014 by Chimamanda Ngoai Adichie, the phrase perfectly encapsulates the current mood in today’s sociopolitical landscape.

Thousands of pink ‘pussyhats’ marched through D.C. in protest of Trump in January, and the faultless Emma Watson (actress, activist, exemplary role model) has been particularly outspoken about her position as a feminist.

This t-shirt is the culmination of years of hard work by women who have faced struggles against mansplainers, menimists, and men in general, and symbolizes the progress we have made in our fight for equality.

The Tee With a Cause

It all started with the vintage-style Gucci t-shirt that was the must-have of Fall/Winter 2016; at an entry-level price point of $550, it opened doors to a brand-conscious generation with less disposable income and a penchant for statement tees.

Other brands such as Christian Siriano and Prabal Gurung have made similar moves, presenting t-shirts along the same thread at the same time, and feminists are now spoiled for choice for white t-shirts costing upwards of $500.

From a marketing perspective, this t-shirt has all the tellings of success, given that it benefits from three factors:

  • The fact that it’s a tad more affordable than a handbag and taps into a younger market that has less money to spend but more leverage in cementing the brand’s relevance in a highly competitive fashion industry
  • That it supports a current movement that is seeing mainstream support, that it supports a charitable cause,
  • The aforementioned charitable cause is backed by a prominent figure in pop culture. TL;DR, Dior has hit branding gold with this t-shirt.

Everlane, a leader in the transparency movement, sells printed ‘100% Human’ cotton t-shirts for $22 (production cost: $9; traditional retail price: $45); $5 of this goes to the American Civil Liberties Union.

Even if you were to produce t-shirts at triple the cost of Everlane’s, if you stick a desirable high-end label and a worthy cause that makes the consumer feel good about spending their money, you can up the price to a downright ridiculous figure.

Dior is proud to inform consumers that a portion of the proceeds from the sales of this t-shirt will be donated to The Clara Lionel Foundation, which aims to improve the lives of those in need.

An added benefit: it’s closely affiliated to 2017’s Humanitarian of the Year, Rihanna, so you know it’s effortlessly cool, just like the singer.

Buy a t-shirt and inch your way closer to the life of one of the most fashionable female celebrities today, and feel good about it? Hell yeah, charge that $710 to my credit card!

Trying To Sell Me a T-Shirt For $710?

The ‘We Should All Be Feminists’ t-shirt is all about women, by women, and for women with $700 to spare. It doesn’t stop there: Dior has failed to reveal just how much of the proceeds go to charity. $2 is a portion; so is $500.

Are we being told to drop $700 on a printed white t-shirt because it supports a movement that, let’s face it, is now a fashion trend, and some of that $700 will go to a worthy cause but we don’t know how much is actually going to those who need our help the most?

….Yep, I’d say that sounds about right.

Now listen closely, because I’m going to let you in on a little insider secret: getting a custom printed t-shirt doesn’t cost that much. haha! I bet you thought you were going to hear incredible news.  

The cost to the environment is another issue (the water footprint of a cotton t-shirt is estimated at 2,700 liters according to WWF), but the monetary cost is, unfortunately for the environment, minimal.

If I had $700 and I wanted to donate to a worthy cause and get a t-shirt, I could go to my local t-shirt printing shop, drop a cool $20, treat myself to a $4 bubble tea because I deserve it, and donate my remaining $676.

I’m open to suggestions on what to print on my t-shirt; I’m thinking ‘I donated $680 to charity and all I got was this lousy t-shirt’. Submissions are now open.

From Movements to Fashion Trends

I can’t talk about today’s sociopolitical landscape without also mentioning Pepsi’s disastrous Kendall Jenner advertisement.

It’s a prime example of how corporations are failing in their attempts to connect with the current generation that birthed the Black Lives Matter movement and almost managed to elect the first female US president into office.

Corporations are doing all they can to wheedle in alongside millennials by proclaiming that they have the same ideals; however, as seen with Pepsi, there is a thin line that, if crossed, could end in threats of boycotts from an entire demographic.

Causes turned into fashion trends are nothing new: the Nike-backed Livestrong movement managed to put yellow rubber bracelets on the wrists of anyone from then-president George W. Bush to twelve-year-olds.

It was expected of you to wear a Livestrong bracelet unless you were heartless, cancer-supporting, and self-possessed.

The social pressure to wear one of the ugliest fashion trends to ever come into existence was incredible, and even worse, led to the proliferation of counterfeit Livestrong bracelets which ironically did nothing to benefit the cause the wearer supposedly supported.

Even more ironic is the implication that if you don’t openly display your support for a cause, you don’t support it at all.

Placing such a powerful, thought-provoking message on a t-shirt waters it down while allowing the wearer to look down their nose towards the vast majority of the population who don’t own a similar t-shirt, so obviously, they don’t share the same ideals or fashion trends.

Combine that with the psychology behind what drives the luxury market, and you have a proud consumer standing high on their pedestal in the belief that they are a wealthy philanthropist.

Ultimately, the problem lies not with the corporations but with the consumers who enable the exploitation of well-meaning movements, and it all boils down to the humblebrag. Nobody wants to look like they’re trying to show off, even when that’s all they want to do.

Dior isn’t looking to create the next Livestrong bracelet, but it reflects the same holier-than-thou mentality that leads people to want a more sizable and yet socially acceptable reward than that of walking around with a little “I donated!” sticker pasted haphazardly onto a sleeve.

Fashion is a Fickle Mistress

The feminist t-shirt is ultimately just another blip on the trend radar, and the consumer is lapping it up. Suspiciously similar t-shirts have popped up on Etsy and eBay, indicating the demand for the style.

In a few months, this t-shirt fashion trend will be a distant memory as its popularity fizzles and a new hot item emerges to replace it.

Meanwhile, the people in need will still be people in need, having received an indeterminate amount of money from Dior, and therein lies the problem with this t-shirt: it’s turning a movement, and worse, a charitable cause, into a fashion trend, and that doesn’t sit well with me.


Image source: Pinterest!

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