Fashion’s Role in the Feminist Movement

Fashion’s Role in the Feminist Movement

Written by Aqilah ZailanMarch 2, 2020

Fashion’s Role in the Feminist Movement

Women’s fight for gender equality has spanned hundreds of years but the journey is far from reaching its end.

The #MeToo and Time’s Up initiatives became a global movement in late 2017 when victims of sexual abuse broke their silence and named Harvey Weinstein and other prominent figures in entertainment as sexual predators. Following this, feminism was catapulted to the forefront of social conversations as others who suffered the same fate as the victims came forward.

2020 is shaping up to be another politically charged year with the US elections set to take place. There is a renewed push towards female empowerment – the outcome of the elections could result in the enactment of new policies that champion women’s rights.

Awareness of the feminist movement is reinvigorated each year with International Women’s Day, on 8th March. The occasion originated over a century ago, as a way to honour and celebrate womanhood. It also serves to spur the eradication of gender inequality.

In recent years, fashion showed support for this endeavour through the launch of capsule collections to commemorate International Women’s Day. As well as these collections in conjunction with this momentous day, fashion brands propel feminism in unique ways. Let’s take a look.

Capsule Collections

Net-a-Porter’s T-Shirt Collection

Fashion’s Role in the Feminist Movement - Net-a-Porter's T-shirt collection
Stella McCartney & Roxanne Assoulin’s T-shirts. Image credit: WWD

Luxury online retailer Net-a-Porter continues its tradition of celebrating International Women’s Day by launching an exclusive t-shirt collection in collaboration with 20 designers that include Stella McCartney, Jimmy Choo and Isabel Marant. The collection is part of a partnership with Women for Women International that has spanned three years. All proceeds from the collection will be donated to the organisation that helps women in war-torn countries to start afresh.

As per past years, each designer contributed their depiction of female empowerment and strength in designing the t-shirts. The collection has performed well historically. Omnilytics data found that the t-shirt collection on Net-a-Porter achieved an 83% sell-out rate last year.

Chloé Partners with UNICEF

Fashion’s Role in the Feminist Movement - Chloé's Girls Forward marketing campaign
Chloé’s Girls Forward marketing campaign. Image credit: Chloé

Luxury label Chloé announced late last year that it had joined forces with the United Nation Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in a three-year partnership to support gender equality. This collaboration involves selling bracelets, necklaces and t-shirts to raise funds for UNICEF programmes that provide digital and technological education to young girls and women in countries like Bolivia, Senegal, Morocco and Jordan. 

“Contributing to girls’ education will give them more chances to fulfil their dreams,” said Geoffroy de la Bourdonnaye, chief executive officer of Chloé.

The project is set to launch on International Women’s Day.

Rhone Women’s Capsule Collection

Fashion’s Role in the Feminist Movement - Rhone Women's capsule collection
Rhone Women’s capsule collection. Image credit: WWD

After five years of producing activewear for men, Rhone is releasing a limited women’s collection for International Women’s Day. Its founders stated that the collection is their way of celebrating and showing appreciation for the women that have been instrumental in driving the brand forward. In the spirit of girl power, the marketing campaign will underline female strength. The inseams of the garments will be stamped with Virginia Woolf’s quote – “No need to be anybody but oneself” as part of the campaign.

Nike’s Year of the Woman

Last year marked a pivotal time for Nike and its pursuit of female empowerment. The activewear giant declared 2019 ‘The Year of the Woman’ and actively worked to live up to that objective.

Leading up to the Women’s World Cup soccer tournament in France, Nike launched its ‘Dream Crazier’ marketing campaign that highlighted achievements of world-class female athletes. The commercial, narrated by Serena Williams, also addressed women’s plight to overcome obstacles in sports and the double standards that they are subjected to.

Fashion’s Role in the Feminist Movement - Nike's 'Dream Crazier' marketing campaign
Nike’s ‘Dream Crazier’ marketing campaign. Image credit: Nike

Apart from inspirational marketing, Nike also empowers women by investing in scientific research to bolster product development with innovative technology. Structural differences in the male and female bodies are accounted for in the design of athletic gear for women. For this reason, Nike products are often credited with peak performance capabilities by female athletes. One of the key products of this venture is the Pro Hijab, created for female Muslim athletes. The Pro Hijab has been instrumental in fostering inclusivity within sports.

Omnilytics data detected that Nike’s womenswear category saw a 74% increase in new-in SKUs last year. In comparison, the menswear category’s YoY new-ins went up by only 34%. While disparity in assortment size between the two categories still exists, this is a testament to the brand’s pledge to prioritise women. Nike’s strategy was a step in the right direction as its womenswear category achieved a sell-out rate that is 22% higher than menswear.

Fashion’s Role in the Feminist Movement - New-in count for Nike

Empowering Shapewear

In the 19th century, it was the tightly-laced corset. Two hundred years later in 2000, Spanx became the modern-day, less painful solution for women in pursuit of the coveted hourglass figure. The market leader of shapewear remains a dominant figure in the industry today but new brands have emerged in response to the shift in consumer values. Feminism amplified the body-positive movement that new brands are capitalising on. Rather than the confining and compressing types of shapewear women have been painfully squeezing themselves into, the shapewear available today maximises comfort and promotes inclusivity.

Kim Kardashian’s shapewear range, Skims, exemplifies this with an extensive size and shade range. Providing a wide variety of choices empowers women as they do not feel constrained by certain beauty standards, giving them confidence in their own skin. Brands like Skims and Heist Studios further amplifies this philosophy through bold marketing and social campaigns spotlighting diverse body types that women can relate to.

Fashion’s Role in the Feminist Movement - Skims marketing campaign
Skims marketing campaign. Image credit: Forbes

Skims hit the ground running thanks to an effective marketing strategy and a broad assortment. Omnilytics data found that Skims has achieved a 70% sell-out rate since its launch without any discounting. The global lingerie market was valued at $83 billion in 2018 and is growing. The success of brands like Skims indicate that shapewear contributes significantly to the growth of the lingerie market. Omnilytics data also detected that the shapewear subcategory has been trending upwards in recent months.

Fashion’s Role in the Feminist Movement - Trend movement for shapewear

Fashion Propels Feminism

The ascent of feminism as a social campaign caused a shift in consumer values that retailers are swiftly reacting to beyond International Women’s Day. The fashion industry has the power to propel positive change with its extensive reach. In spreading awareness through retail practices and communicating empowering messages, could gender inequality be eradicated once and for all?

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