Fashion & Feminism

Capitalism Won’t Take Her Where She Really Wants to Go

Feminist slogan tees have been having a moment since Dior designer Maria Grazia Chiuri reignited the trend in late 2016. And while wearing your heart on your sleeve – or your politics on your tee shirt – can be both empowering and unifying, wearing a tee shirt without advocating for systemic change can render the message performative.
Lluiscolom CollectionCourtesy of Lluis Colom


Maria Grazia Chiuri was appointed creative director at the House of Dior in 2016. In her first collection for the brand, she sent tee shirts with the words “We should all be feminists” down the runway. Taken from the title of an essay by Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the tee shirts, which retailed for nearly a thousand dollars, set the tone for Chiuri’s vision for the house of Dior. Since then, each of Grazia Chiuri’s collections have built upon the visual impact of feminist statements, which show up not only on tee shirts but within the fashion presentations as well: the A/W 2021 collection featured neon signs by artist collective Clair Fontaine which bore messages that read “Consent” and “Patriarchy = Repression”, and for the S/S 2024 collection Elena Bellantoni created a video piece, which played as a backdrop for the show, with statements like “Take your hands off when I say no, take your eyes off when I say no” and “Capitalism won’t take her where she really wants to go” emblazoned in bright yellow and Barbie pink. 


Alvaro Mars Collection Courtesy of Alvaro Mars


It can, and has, been argued that Grazia Chirui is putting the feminist back in fashion. In response to her first collection the A/W 2017 collections in New York showed one statement tee shirt after another. This is a cultural moment that has seen a major focus on feminist issues, from the Pussy Hat protests to the #MeToo Movement, and lively debates regarding gender inequities like the wage gap, reproductive rights and the burdens of unpaid labor continue to regularly command attention in Canada, the United States and the UK. It would seem that feminism is having (yet another) moment, and feminist slogan tee shirts are an easy and empowering way for all gender-identities to communicate their feelings regarding gender equity.

And yet, Dior belongs to the LVMH conglomerate, which is owned by a man. Etsy, ASOS, and Amazon, where the 99% are more likely to source their feminist slogan tees, are also all owned by men. Feminist slogan tees may declare our politics loud and proud, but ultimately they do little to change the status quo – wherein (primarily) women are paid sub-living wages to manufacture our clothing while the men who own the clothing brands line their pockets. 


Lluis Colom CollectionCourtesy of Lluis Colom


At its core, feminism can be understood as a range of ideologies and political movements that support the social, economic, and political equality of the sexes. A truly feminist fashion system would have less to do with selling slogan tees, and more to do with raising women up behind the scenes. Most crucially, this would mean greater diversity across the C-suite – there would be more women in positions of power, more women at the table calling the shots. But contemporary feminist theory is attuned to intersectionality, and so greater diversity would also, hopefully, mean more people across the gender spectrum, more people of color, more people with disabilities holding positions of influence within the fashion system. This greater breadth of lived experience informing how the fashion system functions would inevitably change the social landscape of fashion.


Alvaro Mars CollectionCourtesy of Alvaro Mars


A truly feminist fashion system would also, of course, include pay equity. This would mean all garment workers making a living wage, in a safe and hygienic workplace. Maybe more women in management would balance out to mean more male garment workers; or maybe more fashion brands would adopt a model of social enterprise, in which garment work can be leveraged to provide women with transferable skills and income. 

Feminist slogan tees provide an outlet for protest; they send the message that we will not be silenced. But to create a truly feminist fashion system words must be translated into action, including the social change of greater diversity in the boardroom, economic emancipation for women, and the commitment to use the platform of fashion to advocate for women’s rights.


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