FEMINISM IS NOT A FAD
Fashion houses like Chanel cash in on Feminism
by Lucy Draper
Oh Karl Lagerfeld. You certainly know how to put on a show. Following on from the Chanel ‘supermarket sweep’ Autumn/Winter 2014/15 catwalk, last week the fashion crowd in Paris was treated to the spectacle of a heard of models storming down the runway holding placards emblazoned with ‘feminist’ slogans. Some of the highest paid models, including Cara Delevingne and Gisele Bundchen, strode ahead shouting the sentiments down quilted megaphones, covered in Chanel logos. So far, so ridiculous.
The event immediately, and predictably, spawned a huge response both on Twitter and in mainstream media. All sorts of theories and arguments were thrown around: Karl Lagerfeld was a feminist icon, he was a scoundrel, the models were stupid, the models were great, it was a good move for feminism, it was terrible for feminism and critics accused him of exploiting feminism to sell his costly clothes – you get the picture.
But before we get down to dissecting this manufactured spectacle, I just want to remind you of a few of Mr Lagerfeld’s past comments to put the demonstration into context. This is the man who criticised the singer Adele for being “a little too fat” and stated that “no one wants to see curvy women”. The designer also called for Pippa Middleton to “only show her back” as he did not take kindly to her face and said “it would be difficult to have an ugly daughter.”
So you may ask, what the hell was Lagerfeld thinking when he sent off his ‘feminist’ brigade, stomping down the ‘Boulevard Chanel’, a faux-Parisian street as fake as the sentiment behind the finale. Well, Uncle Karl was probably thinking: ‘Hey, feminism seems pretty popular. And I probably look like one of the least likely public figures to come out in support of it – this could work.’ Because who could argue that the feminist movement has gone through quite a change in the last five years or so. Whilst it used to be a word consigned to intellectual circles and its followers viewed as bra-burning man-haters, feminism has had a pretty staggering revival as of late. Let’s not forget Emma Watson’s ‘game changing’ UN speech launching the He For She campaign occurred only a week ago and yet, there her words were, plastered across one of the may posters carried in the skinny arms of a Chanel model. Probably not where she intended they be used.
When it comes to feminism the more the merrier is surely the way to go. But it’s the misuse, or to put it another way, the misappropriation of the term, which leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Feminism has become an easy marketing tool and people are not afraid to use it. How could we forget ‘Mrs Carter’ (sorry, I mean Beyoncé) strutting around in front of a sign with the word ‘feminist’ emblazoned on it whilst wearing a shiny leotard and singing about how someone “Monica Lewinski'd all on my gown”? I think the lady doth protest too much.
Last year, Elle UK launched a campaign to ‘rebrand’ feminism; the editor-in-chief of the US Cosmo said the magazine was “deeply feminist”; and in 2013 Miley Cyrus declared she was “one of the biggest feminists”. It’s great that feminism has become mainstream, of course it is: the more people that know and understand it, the better. But it’s this latter issue – that of comprehending the fundamental concept of what being a feminist means - which is missing in so many of these new stunts. Young girls are learning to associate being a feminist with being sexually overt rather than an advocate for gender equality.
And I have a sneaking suspicion that Karl Lagerfeld knows this. He looked around, realised all these other people were jumping on the F bandwagon – regardless of whether they really believed it or not - and took his shot, very much aware of the publicity and attention it would garner. Lagerfeld was once asked what was needed to make a legend survive. His response? “A sense of humour and a little lack of respect”. I think anyone taking this latest Chanel stunt seriously, should remember that.