Sunday, January 27, 2019

Sew Chaotically! ~ Fashion. Inclusive or exclusive? (Part 4: Highlighting makers bringing equality and diversity to our lives!)

Inclusion.  Exclusion.  Where does fashion fall?  Are designers, of ready to wear garments and patterns alike, obligated to provide fashion for ALL shapes and sizes?  Must designers include all body types, members of all possible ethnic, racial, and gender groups in their advertising?  Should all garments proffered be usable/wearable for every conceivable human condition?  Including mom's who are breast feeding?  Folks in wheelchairs?  Those who require colostomy bags?  Where do the responsibilities of the business owner/designer fall?  Should expectations for the content included in a large multinational business be different from a small family run establishment?

I grew up admiring ads for the United Colors of Benetton like this one:

In researching Benetton for this post, I found this beautifully made video they created supporting equal rights for women, United by Half. The underlying audio follows:

"We're not better halves, or worse
Definitely not the weaker halves
We won't settle for less
All we want is our half
Our half of the space
Our half of the take
Our half of the give
Our half of the strength
Our half of the opportunity for education
Our half of the share
Our have of the decisions, in the decision-making.
Women have been denied their half for far too long.
Let us unite for the equal half."

Powerful stuff.  But Benetton's ads have not been without controversy, as noted in Eilidh Nuala Duffy's article for Vogue in December 2017.  Clearly some of these photos make you wonder, "This has what to do with purchasing a colorful sweater, exactly????"

Currently, some fashion brands have chosen to embrace various social positions.  TOMS campaign to end gun violence and Nike's embrace of Colin Kaepernick (the former 49ers quarterback who began taking a knee to highlight police brutality and social injustice in 2016) are two examples.
Multiple independent sources report Blake Mycoskie, TOMS founder, not only put his company on the line with this campaign, he donated $5 million of his own money to various gun violence prevention organizations.  Using various media platforms to explain his desire to facilitate change after the shooting at the Borderline Grill in California in November, the campaign facilitated the sending of over 600,000 postcards from American citizens to their elected officials advocating for universal background checks within the first 10 days of its launch and garnered support from loads of celebrities from Snoop Dog and Tyler Hubbard to faith leaders and chefs.
According to this report in the Washington Post, from September 2018, "...a Quinnipiac University poll showed voters approved of Nike’s decision to feature Kaepernick in its latest ad campaign, 49 percent to 37 percent. The poll also found a distinct age gap, with those 18 to 34 approving of Nike’s decision by a 67-21 margin, while voters 65 and older disapproved of the decision, 46 to 39 percent."
Clearly, taking a stand can be fraught.  Companies choosing to do so will certainly have patrons that support and back those efforts, while others, including political leaders, may vociferously object and even work to punish them for their stance.   It is also possible that there are those in the industry who are adopting positions and diversifying their cat walks solely to favorably impact their bottom line irregardless of their true beliefs.  After all, money talks.  I know I am not alone in choosing to spend my dollars at companies who (at least appear to) support my values and avoid those who take stands against them.  And while I'd like to think my money matters, there is tremendous value in the patronage of the powerful.  Jason Wu was unheard of in many circles until Michelle Obama started wearing his designs.  No matter the reasons behind it, or what we think of it, you need look no further than September's New York Fashion week to see that inclusion was embraced in more than a few shows:  Designers of Color Show Out With These Inspired Fashion Week Looks, Sameer Rao, COLORLINES

And while all the topics I've covered here over the past few days percolated in my brain this month, I discovered Niki Groom of MISS MAGPIE Fashion Spy, an incredible artist who, when unable to find the diversity she seeks in the fashion world, creates it herself!
Thinking boy friend jeans?  She's got you covered with that and more!!  Her art and attitude are amazing.  This illustration is but one of many diverse presentations up on her IG feed and blog.  
I do not have all the answers to the questions I pose.  But, I am confident they will be found.  Wiser, more talented heads and fingers than mine are working on it!  But, once again, I am certain the sewing/making community will be together leading the way and....

...sharing their many united colors.  After all, Benetton ain't got nothing on us. ~ les


  1. Goodness, I loved Benetton ~ the colors and the attitude! Do you remember those yellow and red striped knit pants I had from them? And I still have these multi-colored checkerboard bike shorts that I wear to exercise in. :)

    As for the clothing companies... I don't think one company can be everything for everybody. But, it is awesome that we have those that are trying to fill in the gaps that many mainstream retailers and designers are leaving.

  2. I do!!! Do you remember that neon yellow plaid outfit I got you for Christmas one time? It wasn't Benetton as that was out of my price range at the time...but it was similar in style and COLOR!!!

    When new to this world of sewing and blogging about it, I saw a vicious set of comments on Grainline Studio's blog...criticizing Jen (the owner/designer) for making only "loose fitting unattractive garments"!! Could she not offer things that were more form fitting??? And while Jen's response was gracious, I haven't gotten over that poster yet! I mean if you don't like the clothes, fine! Make your purchases at another shop or from a different pattern maker that you find better suits your style. I don't think I have the right to stop by the nearest bakery and demand pasta!!!

    Still, as more folks of different backgrounds and life experiences develop brands and head companies, there WILL be much more diversity in what we see, hear and have available to all of us. THAT's what I think we need to support. That and the tools and education that makes it possible for ALL our children to see themselves in any position or style that suits their that they can make it so in their adult lives!!!