F Word - a menswear collection based on feminism
By Rossella Forle’
Gender inequality is not a women’s problem, it’s a society problem. Real changes requires engagement from all parties and men need to fully embrace the benefits that gender equality can bring to society.
As platform, we believe that feminism is also about redefining masculinity. Just as we believe in intersectional feminism, we believe that men must be included in feminism too.
Last weekend while I was looking for inspiration on how to engage men in the gender equality conversation, I came across the menswear collection designed by Chloe Bailey, inspired by feminism, so I decided to contact her for an interview.
We discussed how the concept of masculinity has changed, how the fashion industry can help to detoxify society from gender stereotypes and what’s the inspiration behind her collection.
Enjoy our interview.
1. What’s the best thing of working at a men collection based on feminism?
The best thing about designing a menswear collection based on feminism is that the first question people ask is “why for men?”, I believe the answer to that question is within the question itself. Why NOT for men?! People were quick to say “how unusual” but is it? Why can’t men be associated with feminism too? After all, feminism means equality amongst the sexes. This is exactly why I did the collection for men, as I knew this was a statement that would be made as soon as the collection was shown on the runway.
2. Who and which things were your inspiration for your collection THE F WORD?
I wanted to use my collection as a platform to protest current issues facing women and men today. Combining sports and formal wear, clothing fit for purpose and style, embracing femininity too. Using ironic and light-hearted phrases printed on my clothing to make a big impact. My collection is my response to the way men seen feminism in today’s society, a lot of men feel alienated by the movement as they feel like it doesn’t necessarily include them. It was also a response to the amount of people today who think feminism “isn’t needed anymore”.
The “F” Word – a phrase created making fun of the bad connotations surrounding the word feminism.
“Let her speak” a powerful phrase I took from my research into the 12-hour filibuster that Wendy Davis did in Texas 2013 In order to stall and anti-abortion bill that would close almost all abortion clinics in Texas. When the rules were broken to stop her, the crowd that gathered chanted this phrase, and I thought it was an incredible moment.
“Like a man” is a play on gender stereotyping in today’s society, a society where men are still looked upon as the strong ones, the ones who have to be masculine and emotionless. In the collection I am using it ironically, referencing these ideas to tackle the stereotype and protest this attitude that some people have toward men.
“Feminist” as clear as can be, a label that is on my collection as I want people to see that any person, of any race, gender, sexuality or religion can be a feminist and feminism benefits EVERYONE.
My aim was to create a collection that re-defined the word ‘feminism’ and what it means to be a feminist today. It means standing up for women and wanting nothing more than equality. Not man-hating nor wanting to be superior but wanting to live in a world where people live in an equal society and are able to make their own choices about their lives.
3. How fashion can contribute to gender equality?
Fashion makes a huge impact every day and people don’t even realise it. What we wear is a huge part of our identity and if someone feels like they can’t dress how they want to because of gender stereotypes then that’s a problem. Nobody should feel like that. There are plenty of like minded designers out there who like me, want to make a difference in fashion and they actually have the platform and following to make a difference.
4. Can brands help detoxify masculinity?
Definitely, brands have so much power now as people will follow trends and as soon as the top designers make the choice to ditch masculine stereotypes then everyone else will too.
I actually believe it starts in children’s wear, the sooner brands realise that a little girl might want a dinosaur on her jumper and a little boy might want a bunny rabbit on his, the better. I am no psychology graduate, but I know that this impacts how children see what is suitable for girls and boys, what they are ‘allowed’ to like, and dislike and I think it’s wrong.
5. Are fashion designers advocating a style that is free from restrictive male stereotypes?
Not all of them just yet, but I think there is progress being made. A lot of designers create “genderless” collections which I think is a great idea, or some designers just break the boundaries of male stereotypes and you can really see it in their designs. An example would be Raf Simons, who takes streetwear to an entirely different level and really challenges the idea of masculinity within his designs, presenting a completely different image in today’s menswear. A great menswear designer who does this too is Thom Browne, who created a new look for men’s suiting in his spring summer 2018 collection, designing skirts for men. I love things like this as you can really see the progress of designers breaking down the fashion boundaries of gender specific garments.
Raf Simons collection
Photo credit: Kat Olszewska - Instagram @katolszewska
You can follow her on Instagram @chloebaileyfashion