The Fashion Industry is Trying to Address Politics

Just in time for fashion week…


Earlier this week, the CFDA announced its Fashion Stands With Planned Parenthood campaign, which takes the form of a pink lapel pin, designed by Condé Nast Creative Group, “which they hope will be worn by designers and models, and which will be distributed to front-row denizens [of New York Fashion Week].” The impetus is to raise awareness on the part of Planned Parenthood, which is currently at risk of being defunded by the federal government.

Yesterday, Altuzarra announced it will be auctioning off two tickets to its Fall/Winter 2017 show (taking place this coming Sunday), with all proceeds going to Planned Parenthood. The brand explained via Instagram: “We stand with Planned Parenthood.” There’s no note of whether this was related to or inspired by the CFDA push.

And then this morning, Business of Fashion announced its own campaign: the #TiedTogether movement, which encourages people in the global fashion community to wear a white bandana to “make a clear statement in support of solidarity, human unity and inclusiveness.”

These campaigns arrive on the heels of some criticism as to where the big names in fashion stand on the political issues currently dominating news cycles (and news feeds and the parts of our brains that process stress and anger). Within 48 hours of the immigration ban last week, WWD published a story declaring the fashion industry’s silence on the issue “deafening.” 48 hours! Deafening! The pressure is on. The expectation is that the voices of these companies must be more than raised. They must be loud, effective and genuine, too.

“[W]hile there is a notable, and growing, swell of support for such initiatives,” reports Business of Fashion, referring to campaigns like #TiedTogether, “there are still executives from several major public companies reticent to speak out — even in an apolitical way — in fear of alienating an already-shrinking customer base in an extremely challenged selling environment.”

When a business decides to makes a political statement, it’s not just about business or marketing or altruism. It’s a messy combination of all three. Maybe that’s why we seldom come across ones that really hit home. But whereas media blasts leave a bad taste, silence feels even scarier. So what do we want? What would help right now? I’m still sorting out my feelings on the topic and I’m curious to hear what you think.

Photo by TREVOR COLLENS for AFP via Getty Images

Get more Fashion ?
  • Maren Douglas

    I would be curious to know the tangible effects these various political statements have. Wearing pins in support of a cause is great and I appreciate cfda taking a stance and trying to raise awareness. I wonder if a certain number of people wearing the pins actually translates to positive, tangible actions to and for planned parenthood. Is the awareness that spreads eventually a more beneficial “donation” to the cause than just the direct money from auctioning two seats to a show? Answering your question with more questions.

  • im excited that the cfda has a planned parenthood initiative
    i say never be shy as a business to stand up for what you believe in

  • Eva Skewes

    In general I don’t object to these kinds of political statements, but I’m more likely to applaud them when they’re reflected by the actual decisions of the company. For example: Do they offer parental leave or flexible work schedules? Do they fairly pay all their workers and ensure a transparent production process? Do they have an actual plan in place for hiring diversely? Etc.

    If they’re just doing it for the cachet, it’s still a donation to a worthy organization, but it’s also Feminism the Brand, not Feminism the ethos.

  • HildeMeike

    I believe that fashion is art; a sanctuary to escape to and freedom from a confused society. Can a fashion company use its energy for the art alone? Can we accept that not every large company needs to use its name as a voice? Is it ok to step away from confusion, anger and fear and feel peace from gazing at an Etro print or Margiela silhouette?

    • rachel

      Art always has political dimensions– ignoring them is like a kid sticking their fingers in their ears and yelling “I can’t hear you!” Sure, they may not be hearing you, but you’re still talking!

  • disqus_EVSZH6sa1b

    Does everything have to be political now? Can’t we just enjoy things on their own merit? Sports should be about sports. Fashion companies should stick to fashion. Music should be about music. What’s next, politically conscious cooking shows?
    “How to make a pro-choice cake for your friend who’s just had an….!”
    “How to go hiking and check your white privilege at home!”
    “How to raise a genderless baby!”
    We are living in a time where politics is so divisive and more intrusive than ever into our private lives.
    People are getting depression and anxiety from what’s happening in the White House. Isn’t it time we learned how to relax? Wouldn’t that be more constructive for everyone? Obama took this country so far left and now it’s going in a whole different direction. Let’s all just take a deep breath and chill out. It’s going to be a long and wild ride.

    • CatMom

      Unfortunately, yes – everything does have to be political now. We have no choice, because for the overwhelming majority of us, the political has become very, very personal, if it wasn’t already (and those for whom it hasn’t need to count themselves very lucky – and maybe also examine their privilege).

    • rachel

      I hate to break it to you, but whether it is explicit or not, everything already has political dimensions, and that especially includes clothing. When women are judged primarily on their bodies, separating the way they present themselves through clothing from the political, patriarchal world in which these bodies exist is impossible.