Dior Feminism: Why Consumerist Feminism Matters
In 2017, Maria Chirui, the creative director at the French luxury brand Dior, showcased a t-shirt with the slogan, “We Should All Be Feminists” on the runway. This was a political, not a fashion, statement that made ripples among a younger audience. It went viral, and contributed to making feminism fashionable.
Cut to 2020: The brand has yet again flashed its political agenda in bright neon signs alongside its new collection at a recent show held at the Bassin De L'Octogone in Paris’ Jardin des Tuileries. Words like “Consent,” “Patriarchy = CO2,” and “We Are All Clitoridian Women” flash shine bright above models walking down the ramps in the vast space.
The show, with all its accoutrements considered, is a loud and unapologetic rallying call against the existing gender order. A global brand, founded by a man, doesn’t feel the need to pander to the politeness of fashion. It’s encouraging and exciting that an entire show has been put together to prime us to talk about quality. And to be honest, they’ve got a lot right. The clothes, true to the collection name ‘Ready-To-Wear’, indeed are practical and wearable. There is no over the top femininity flowing in trains and puffy sleeves that are best adorned by mannequins behind glass walls. Nor is there any dismissal of femininity, given how even as several models showcase traditionally masculine power suits, these are perfectly balanced by “softer” colours and flowy silhouettes. And the shoes! God, the shoes! The show seems to be an ode to combat shoes - practically the most comfortable pair of footwears ever made for women. There are ensembles that are rightfully androgynous, and hair that’s shorter than what is considered appropriate for the male gaze. All in all, Dior’s Spring 2017 collection and show is a slap in the face of patriarchy.
But, this show has, of course, received criticism. The “T-Shirt Feminism”, as some call it, of Dior, isn’t good enough on the basis that the models are skinny and conventionally pretty, that there aren’t plus size or older women, that the slogan “We Are All Clitordian Women” excludes the women who don’t have a clitoris or a vagina. Maybe the show, and the brand philosophy, isn’t as inclusive as the messaging is politically charged. Maybe. But, who the fuck cares?
I’m just under 5 feet tall, and I have the worst time finding clothes my size. This is not much different than being plus-size, and not finding enough representation in fashion shows or shops. It is frustrating to shop - a lot of the silhouettes I see on ramps or magazines make me look shorter than I am. I remember I once bought a crisp white shirt with balloon sleeves because it looked amazing on the model. When I wore it, however, the big sleeves made it look like I didn’t have upper arms. But, I still enjoy and appreciate the clothes that are showcased on ramps and in magazines. I pick and choose what I think would look good on me.
To me, as someone living in a country where women are forced into marriages and raped on the daily, this nitpicking seems bonkers. I’m thrilled to see a show at this scale by a designer of this mettle with such glaring, hard-to-ignore display of words that women - and men - in my country continue to dismiss.
Sure, it may seem pointless to write “We Should All Be Feminists” on a t-shirt that most people can’t afford, but the fact is that a large number of people across the world see that image on the Internet, endorsed by a successful business and many celebrities. That leaves an impact. It may not directly change the ground reality of women being abused and deprived of fundamental rights just because they are women, but it kicks off a butterfly effect that may change the future. It plants the seeds. It makes young boys and girls think about gender roles. It makes them question it. For an entire generation that is growing up watching luxury fashion shows like this, it makes feminism cool and aspirational.
Besides, to say that we should not commodify a socio-political movement in a deeply consumerist culture, excludes a large population of those who consume and are impacted by pop culture and content.
If we don’t want to be branded as "man-hating feminazis" for upholding strong opinions about gender issues, we are no one to say that everyone must imbibe the same facet of this movement. To each their own.
In the end, we must remember, Dior Feminism is not about the present. It is about the future.