Fashion, beyond a shadow of doubt, is art. Fabrics being sewn together, woven to tell the story the tailor wishes to convey. Additionally, fashion is power, and more than power itself, fashion, in actuality, is a voice for those who are afraid to speak. When Rachel Zoe, a celebrity stylist, said “fashion and style is a way to say who you are without having to speak”, she certainly hit the nail on the head. Fashion, now more than ever in this contemporary world, is even politics; speaking the truth so valiantly and boldly to those in power who prefer to willingly abuse it as opposed to speak up for people who are in critical need of a medium; us. Those who suffer from the repercussions when oppression is driving us. Shame is always riding shotgun, and fear is the backseat driver. It is baffling that we take fashion so lightly as merely clothes in itself. Fashion has never been elusive, or one to shy away from cracking the foundation of the holier-than-thou attitudes of some who cherry pick what they deem is right and attack those who do not conform to their backwards ideology. Fashion dictates with an iron fist, and we are the sheep that fall in line with the herd.
The fashion industry has always been verbose in its stand in politics. Boldly standing up for their beliefs for those who have been wronged, and speaking up for what is right. In this modern world, fashion swims in the politics pool so patently while constantly making big splashes. When Donald Trump was elected as the President of the United States, Marc Jacobs, a critically acclaimed designer who owns a label that is eponymous to his name, bravely stated that he refused to dress Melania Trump, the First Lady, in his clothes. Jacobs however sets the record straight that his interests lies in channeling his energy into aiding those who will fall victim under the Trump administration. With such unabashed attitude, one might expect him to be damned with faint praise or worse; shunned from the community, albeit the situation is rather the opposite. Jacobs is being celebrated and showered with praises particularly from the segments of the population that is tyrannized by the actions and comments made by Trump. In light of his defiant comment, many designers have followed suit in Jacob’s footstep by refusing both him and his wife a platform to showcase their clothing for someone who blatantly refuses to believe in the very foundation the United States was built on – the American dream. Sadly for many, the dream has now become a full-blown nightmare that feeds on the weak.
In some instances, there will always be someone with more privilege and the incompetency to match with it to mute and downplay someone else’s struggles. That being said, fashion is no stranger to controversy, and above all else, is not spared from the wrath that follows. This was apparent when Dolce & Gabbana, an Italian luxury fashion house provoked public outrage in China in advance of a planned show in Shanghai with their tasteless, inappropriate and downright offensive ads, clearly produced and filmed with zero tact. Their efforts to engage with the Chinese market was futile when in lieu of appealing to the market consumers, the brand procured racist caricatures of the Chinese people by dumbing them down to the point of not being inept enough to consume western dishes like pasta and cannoli without the assistance of chopsticks. Upon holding them accountable for their words and actions, Stefano, one of the two designers behind the fashion line responded with racist stereotypes of the Chinese people, even taking it to an extreme of accusing them of eating dogs while Stefano and his people celebrated the canines. It is hardly surprising their show was immediately cancelled after a dozen of models took a stance by choosing not to walk for the brand. Most if not all of their Chinese consumers worldwide went on a Dolce & Gabbana cleanse which included no less of ridding away thousands of dollars of their clothes, shredding them, and even going to the extent of burning them. The lack of cultural understanding and the perils of culture arrogance only crashed and burned the once celebrated brand.
Diet Prada, an Instagram account that has been an industry watchdog for a couple of years now, covered the entire meltdown. The account mentioned in a post that this incident, one of many, comes off as no surprise given that the brand has always managed to find itself in hot waters as a result of their controversial comments. Regrettably, Stefano has always been a thorn in his own success. Still, how many incidents does it have to take before people realize actions have consequences and it will not simply be swept under the rug? At the same time, incidents like these causes a conversation to take place, to further discuss the pressing issues in the world that so many shy away from in fear. Like Diet Prada, Teen Vogue has been an exemplary example of progressive fashion reporting. In contrast to their sister magazine, Vogue, they have always spoken forth issues that many magazines dismisses to cover. Teen Vogue notably has done coverage on matters such as Donald Trump gas lighting the American people to the discrimination and killings of the Indigenous Indian people and even the horrifying history behind Columbus Day.
Fashion, come hell or high water, will always provide a mode of expression and a voice for the invisible and voiceless. Fashion serves as a medium for those whom are unafraid to question authority when they deliberately slipped up, and those who refuses to be a puppet dancing to the tunes of those in power whom which usually are unreliable and whose credibility has been severely compromised. As the political climate in the U.S. has become scarily and increasingly dissatisfying, the public on many occasions look to brands for a voice and many times fashion offers them what they seek. Despite that, many fashion brands and magazine needs to recognize that they own a voice and owe it to the people to use their influence against some of the repulsive rhetoric because one small step is a good start for a long journey. Ultimately, fashion can be a form of catalyst to spark up conversations and to take stance against contentious issues. All things considered, the fashion industry are inclined to think about more than just trends and “pretty dresses,” seeing that the state of the world is in dire need of all the help it can get to tackle the problem that is growing rapidly like cancer.