From Dior to Prabal Gurang, the runway has become center stage for feminist dialogue. But contrary to the new found "feminist" presence and political activism on the fashion platform within recent times, there are prevailing inequalities found within the movement and the industry. Although feminism is seemingly oversimplified yet deeply complex, I question the intersectionality between the feminist movement and the fashion industry: is feminism reshaping fashion standards or is the fashion industry limiting the movement?
Fashion designers have always been at the center of curating the female image, creating a space for women to be what and who they choose to be. "She" is marked by the stitch of her hem, the silhouette of her bodice, the flow of her gown whipping gallantly with every stride. "She" can be effortlessly edgy, timelessly sophisticated, or iconically androgynous. No matter the designer, the "she" is constructed with an approach of creating the ideal woman of that time.
Parallel to the construction of a designer to their muse, feminism can be seen as a symbolic site of construction for the female image. "Re-construction", to be more precise, of what, who, and how the woman should take up her manifestation and the reshaping of the world's view on femininity. The convergence of fashion and feminism is one of mutual alignment as both seek to create a world for the female patron to take ownership. But the complexities within these two realms problematize their intersectionality. As feminism continues to grow, developing new definitions for its growing supporters, the fashion industry is taking up a more political stance by asserting its advocacy for women's rights. Unfortunately, as empowering as this all is, the longstanding bureaucratic structures and traditional fashion standards that prevail in the fashion industry seem to contradict their feminist advocacy.
Feminism doesn't come with any empty meaning. Stemming from the early 1950's Women's Suffrage Movement, women and men alike have taken to the street and to the courts in creating social and political reform for the women all around the world. And although universal in causation, the international scope creates a varying community of women fighting for change. The view of ownership, body image, and gender equality, just to mention a few, are not universal as womanhood and femininity have varying ideologies from female to female or designer to designer. As femininity is convoluted with socio-cultural ideologies and highly impressionable media coverage, the new feminist movement finds itself easily defined by women of polar ideologies: the free-spirit who exacts agency and empowerment through baring it all versus the conservative who's femininity is defined by modesty and self-preservation. We can easily identify these women in the harlot vs. the coquette, the Western woman versus the conservative Middle Eastern, Rihanna vs. Adele. These varying subjects cannot all be tackled by the universal umbrella of feminism with the same measure, let alone the stagnancy of an industry whose image control is qualified by set standards.
Though the extremes captured earlier are formulas for "a" type or "the" type of feminist supporter, there are characterizations that challenge the very idea of feminism as a movement that are universally seeking the equality for all women. And this is the criticism that goes overlooked in many feminist vs. non-feminist arguments. I am frustrated at the idea that a movement that seeks justice for all at times goes blind or overlooks all the differing injustices that occur to women across the world.