Fashion: Repression or Empowerment

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Fashion – at the very mention of the word, you see rows of women with their heads held high strutting the latest world-renowned designer collections yet to be glorified all over the World Wide Web magazines.

And yet, fashion is so much more than its glamorous reputation. It’s an entire industry in which, for the time being, a massive majority of women are mistreated one way or another – from health hazards to sexual harassment and abuse, women in all sectors of fashion are still far from empowered.

Trends that reflect an imminent change

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Style, the most notable way in which we use fashion to achieve a more authentic self-expression, is an ever-changing phenomenon. As such, it brings us annual and seasonal trends, and aims to preserve the ones that we now know as “timeless” trends, in order to epitomize our own standards and values. Among a slew of repetitive and monotonous, there is a handful of purpose-driven trends that could represent the true face of feminine-oriented fashion.

A single glance at magazine covers featuring athleisure, and you can note that the latest fashion craze brings more comfort and functionality into women’s wardrobes than possibly any other trend out there. Then there is the boho movement, the personification of all things fair-trade, eco-friendly, and organic. When it comes to the work attire, opting for womens bags, white button-down shirts and pencil skirts is the great way to obtain sustainable wardrobe. It has risen to the throne of timeless and keeps raising awareness of what fashion for women should truly be.

The consumers’ point of view

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However, the abovementioned trends and their creators are mere droplets in an ocean of inequality. Being on the other end of the spectrum, consumers don’t have the insight into all the actions and policies of each individual brand we’re presented and advertised on a daily basis.

What we can do is strive to stay in the loop. By keeping up with the news on which brands support which causes, who their main designers are, where they produce their clothes, and taking a closer look at their policies, we can choose to support the ones that are in line with reforming women’s positions in the industry. The likes of Eileen Fisher and Lingua Franca should be on the top of the list for their commitment to women’s rights year-round.

Brands that strive for equality

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With trends that focus on comfort and purpose, alongside powerful women starting to make some noise (which we’ll delve into in a moment), some brands have built their reputation on these precise values. They put functionality above mere aesthetics and they use a unisex model that doesn’t constrict women to a certain socially-imposed pattern of beauty or sex appeal.

These names, including the famous Birkenstock with their staple durable footwear, are slowly reaching the very top of the fashion food chain with their dedication to equality through comfortable, design. To these brands, feminism is not a catch-phrase, nor a sales initiative that skyrockets their profit every March 8th.  

Women in the word of fashion design

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After the Rana Plaza catastrophe, the truth of women in the textile industry has reverberated around the world several times over. That is why so many of the already mentioned brands do their best to contribute by making better choices in their labor policies. But there’s another portion of the fashion universe that woefully neglects the role of women, and that would be its very top.

You’d imagine that women design clothes for women, and yet, only 14% of the most renowned womenswear brands are operated by women. Considering that the fashion industry in its entirety is predominantly designed to appeal to women, this is a staggeringly low number. The world is hungry for more leaders such as Stella McCartney and Tory Burch. The fact that they are a minority might as well physically hurt. In order for this balance to occur, the entire corporate world of fashion will need to change their policies drastically – from ensuring fair maternity policies and equal pay to more mentorship opportunities for women in order to empower leaders among women, not just designers.

The reality of fashion and dress code

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Although we’re seeing more progress on the runways, through the diversity campaigns of numerous designers to bring women of all shapes and shades to the catwalk, not too much has changed outside the haute couture circles. In the mere mortal world of actual, wearable fashion, not too many companies would look kindly on their female employees wearing crop tops or plastic and transparent pieces to the office.

Although no one has yet complained about introducing such “extremes”, the matters of almost non-existent pockets on women’s trousers and shaming women for wearing sleeveless dresses in summer remain. Alongside many other fashion-meets-equality conundrums, these are just some questions that we have yet to untangle in order to help fashion become a matter of empowerment, and not repression.