The slogan t-shirt is as much of a wardrobe necessity as a crisp white shirt or a little black dress. Wham’s “Choose Life” or Cara Delevigne’s “Last Clean T-shirt” back in 2013 are perhaps some of the most recognisable.
Christian Dior’s “This is what a feminist looks like” t-shirt recently made its debut in a politically fuelled runway show. The high-street fast-fashion retailer and chronic catwalk copier, Topshop, wanted to put their stamp on this trend, selling inspired versions of a £490 Dior t-shirt for a fraction of the price. Now, Topshop now offer several different tops and sweaters boasting pro-feminism and girl power slogans. Pro-feminism tops and sweaters that don’t go past a size 16, that are sold by women and girls who are paid VERY slightly above minimum wage.
Topshop do not have the cleanest track record for ethical manufacturing either it would seem. It’s no secret that the brand use international factories to have their stock produced – who doesn’t these days? However, there were reports of previous highly sought after collections – including Kate Moss’ limited edition collection and more recently Beyoncé’s ‘Ivy Park’- allegedly being produced in factories by women and girls who were paid mere pennies. While these t-shirts are not part of a celebrity release, you do have to wonder if they’re being manufactured in a similar way.
Suddenly, this trend is nothing more than a feeble polyester t-shirt with an empty and disappointing message. Topshop declared the t-shirts part of their collection of “Talking Point Tees”. In all honesty, there is nothing really to talk about except the hugely ironic message they are sending out about feminism to their customers. Essentially, customers who purchase the garments are supporting poorly paid retail and manufacturing jobs both in Britain and abroad. It might say feminist on it but frankly, it doesn’t even begin support the plight for gender equality. If anything, it degrades it.
According to Topshop’s item description, wearers of the t-shirt will “transform the plain white t-shirt to make a bold statement this season”. Not only does the classic wardrobe staple of a plain white t-shirt require no transformation whatsoever, the only statement being made by those wearing them is “I don’t actually understand the concept of feminism”.
There has been a global surge in the awareness of feminism and it has almost become popular to support the movement and declare your feminist status across various social media platforms. Scrolling down Instagram and Twitter, I can’t help but feel that the whole sudden interest, particularly from brands, is a bit disingenuous.
These slogan t-shirts are very much a passive and lack lustre attempt at supporting feminism. In an industry where creativity has no limits, Topshop and other high street favourites could have fashioned something that was captivating and progressive. Something that would become a true talking point for females around the world. It gives me the impression that the company care more about the profits rather than supporting feminist values.
This doesn’t necessarily make it okay for designer brands such as Dior to trivialise feminism either. Whether its £490 or £22, it boils down to the same thing. Ultimately, buying and wearing a top with ‘feminism’ plastered across it is the epitome of “white feminism”. It’s a pathetic bid of activism from women who do have choices, freedom and access to education, jobs, finance and material things. From women who are guilty of taking for granted the rights and abilities they have as a female living in the developed world. Women who are so absorbed in self-image that they forget about all of the women and girls around the globe who are continuously under-mined and disregarded.
It would seem that feminism is now just another throwaway trend. Creating a fad out of a genuine desperation for equality of the sexes is a tasteless fashion faux pas and not really very feminist at all.