Serious Style Statements: Fashion Month in Review

The fashion and beauty industry has remained in a state of ambiguity and fluctuation regarding its role in empowering women to be their best self. This idea of ‘best self’ can change drastically depending on your exposure or consumption. It has been obvious in the past that this attainable sense of being is led by being ‘on trend’ and a mentality that if you lose weight, you lose all your problems. On the other end of the spectrum, self-confidence and even flow of creativity begins with channeling it through your wardrobe.

Its’ easy to feel that the empowerment stops at the creative vision of the designer on the runway, with the majority of looks confined to that exhibition and not translatable to everyday life. I mean, we only have to watch the compilations of model tumbles on the runway to see that it’s a stretch to feel comfortable and confident in these ensembles.

Although the industry should be in no way fully content in what it does to support women and allow them to thrive, as fashion month comes to a close, it is evident that the ethos of numerous shows has been driven by a focus on empowerment. One journalist even went so far as to say that we are experiencing an ‘age of empowerment fashion’. In retrospect, here is a rundown of the shows that packed the most punch in redefining femininity and making powerful statements.

Luis Vuitton 

A designer that played this idea of high culture associated with the runway to subversive effect was creative director Nicolas Ghesquiere. Incorporating French bourgeois inspired patterns like dogtooth and tweed whilst making them overall far more functional made the looks more relatable and translatable for everyday life. Also, skirts belonging to two pieces appeared of varying lengths, giving differing images of executive preppiness. Simultaneously undermining the idea that to make a woman feel empowered, she must dress more masculine and we can be taken seriously in a killer mini skirt and an edgy below the knee cut without being inescapably accused of being provocative or a prude. There was also a keen feeling of the past permeating into the present like baroque embellishments; this revamping of traditional high-culture imagery might be a step in the right direction of re-imagining of what it means to be feminine and shifting the target audience of high fashion.

Dior

One of the most overtly political and thematic shows was Dior’s Fall 2018. Artistic director Maria Grazia Chiuri, fitting to add that she is the first female to be appointed this role in the history of the fashion house, recreated the energy, aesthetic and revolutionary message of 1960's protest culture. Clippings of iconic fashion magazine covers were mashed together with vibrant prints of slogans and protest signs and consumed the venue from floor to ceiling, creating a time capsule of anarchy. The setting by no means overshadowed the presence of the clothing collection. Screaming flower power passion, baker boy hats were in abundance and printed jumpers with slogans like ‘its no no no and no!’ in French took center stage. Chiuri gives example of how every aspect of a runway show, the lights, the setting, the music and the clothes feed into each other to emanate a message. Harking back to the furious integrity and relentless optimism of the students fighting for gender equality, this show reminds us that we are in a similar position of responsibility in ensuring change for generations to come.

Gucci 

Another house that took an approach of revival was Gucci. Channeling Donna Haraway's seminal cyborg manifesto of 1984, two models were equipped with the perfect complimentary accessory of in the Milan fashion week show... a sculpted severed head created in their fashion. Albeit a complicated theoretic approach, the statement was fundamentally a reflection on the hybrid formation of women's identity (through self recognition, fiction and the misogynistic gaze). What initially quite a limiting and regressive idea of self reflection, this is a multi-faceted identity than many women have taken in their stride, celebrating breaking free from a one dimensional identity. This statement of eclecticism was also mirrored in the multicultural inspiration of the outfits. After all, if your feminism isn't intersectional, who is it even for?

Seeing my numerous social media feeds absolutely blow up with inspirational messages and empowering content on Thursday 8th March made me feel incredibly lucky to be surrounded by such supportive, creative and strong women. In a hashtag me too and times up movement era, although we still have a heck of a long way to go, these are tumultuous times and following fashion month, 2018 is truly turning out to be the year of the woman.