Feminism is a pretty hot topic right now, some even choose to call it trendy. Take Beyoncé's recent performance at the VMAs, for instance, as she stood silhouetted against the word 'Feminist' in huge white letters, if that's not a sign that the movement has really found its way into popular culture then I don't know what is. As more and more women (and men) profess to being feminists, 'girly' is no longer a dirty word, and with this, pink, frills, fluff, and all things traditionally girly are being revisited and approached from a perspective of power, and with the intention of reclaiming the right to be considered both feminine and strong.
I've recently had the pleasure of working with a host of designers who share this point of view. First up, Sophie Hinchliffe, whose collection was inspired by football and the photographs of Stuart Roy Clarke. Sophie, who thanked the National Football Museum in her lookbook credits, subverted the idea of football being a man's game.
Despite the fact that the England women's team are far more successful on the international stage than their male counterparts, football is a sport renowned for its dismissal and mistreatment of women. Sophie's collection, whilst rooted in the history of football and with a firm sportswear angle, is an homage to femininity, abounding with pastels and metres upon metres of soft tulle. By reconciling these two elements, she shares a message that femininity and the 'masculine' world of football are not mutually exclusive.
|Sophie Hinchliffe lookbook. Photographers: Heather Griffin & Roxy van der Post, |
Model: Rosie Ellingham, Styling, make up & art direction: Sophie Hinchliffe
Charlotte Lewis' collection is equally plush and pink and "explores the conflict women face of wanting to feel feminine and sexy wthout feeling objectified or hampering their feminist values". Charlotte drew inspiration from 1970s erotica, bedroom interiors and the feminist movement, "creating a chintzy and girly collection, with a dash of politics". Charlotte's collection picks up where Sophie's left off. Whilst Sophie tells us that you can be part of a testosterone fuelled world and be feminine, Charlotte investigates the personal struggle which comes with that. Yes you can be feminine and strong but will other people see that? Will people take you seriously if you wear pink and frills? Will they acknowledge your validity within any given situation or just write you off as some silly girl? Equally, are you a 'real feminist' if you dress in a typically girly fashion? Of course you are, and that's what these women are here to show the world. Pink is power.
|Charlotte Lewis lookbook. Photographer: Lucie Crewdson, Hair & Make-up: Charlie Murray, |
Model: Leona @ Agencie
Jessica Shaw, designer and maker of 'feminine female clothing' is another favourite of mine. In fact I would say I'm an embarrassingly big fan of her work, and I can't wait until her next collection comes out. Her most recent collection, 'Dreams of Lolita', featured pompoms, florals, and all kinds of delicate fabrics which I can't even tell you how much I hate sewing. Jessica's whole aesthetic, whilst saccharine and pretty, is swamped in attitude and is the definition of the modern girly girl.
|Jessica Shaw, 'Dreams of Lolita'|
Of course, feminism doesn't stop with the designers. The creative industries are positively bursting with women who are all about spreading a message of girl power. Ione Gamble is Editor of Polyester, a new zine which speaks to the internet generation, recognising them as 'human beings both on and offline, not just 'digifeminists' or emotional young adults using the internet to let off some steam'. She wants her generation to understand their worth and believes that their 'online posts about bullying, racism, sexual orientation and other social politics are worth much more than 1,000 notes on Tumblr; they should be written in papers and pasted on walls so that people know who these many individuals are, leading a change in youth subculture'. I spoke to Ione about why she started Polyester and why she classes it as a feminist publication:
"I started Polyester as I thought the issues myself and lots of other girls are interested in were not being accurately represented in mainstream fashion publications. Lots of people feature the whole 'girly' thing, although to me it seemed really isolated to a single feature or interview or photo shoot, and I wanted to make a space for people who loved this culture to be able to read about it in more depth and discover the people behind the movement! I also felt that 'trashy' or 'girly' fashion and art is never taken as seriously or critically analysed in the same way minimal art is and I wanted to change that. I wouldn't even say its a question of 'why' I classify myself as a feminist, it's just a natural thing for me. I think I'd say the same about Polyester as well; a lot of the designers and creative people we are working with like Clio Peppiatt and Josie Edwards are both feminist and amazing creative girls and it's all about celebrating that."
I've been lucky enough to have a sneak peek at what the first issue holds and I'm excited for its launch on the 9th September; they've got a lot up their sleeve.
|Images from polyesterzine.com. Photographer: Arvida Byström|
Girls Don't is another zine based around similar ideals but takes a different approach, addressing the expectations of being a girl, for example, as it says on their website, girls don't 'poop, have body hair, have a willy or cut their toe nails'. Founder/Editor/Curator Joanna Kiely says: "All of my personal work revolves around girls, satire, and sexuality so I thought why not curate some other people's work around the same theme. I also wanted to do something to show girls they didn't have to be exactly what society wanted them to be, I wanted to bring to people's attention how plain stupid society's standards are. I began requesting submissions in April 2014. I'm lucky enough to be friends with a wide variety of creatives and they all got involved as well as people who came across it online. It's mostly women who contribute, but a few men too!" The first print run sold out quickly and Girls Don't is now accepting submissions for Issue 2. Subjects to explore include body hair, sex, bathroom activities, hygiene, anatomy, respect, and reputations.
|Girls Don't Zine Issue 1 cover|
It's exciting and encouraging to be part of a generation of women who, whilst still having to face issues both old and new, are so sure of their own strength and influence. The scope for spreading this message, whether that's by initiating your own project or joining someone else's, is huge. Of course, whilst I was feeling inspired by my peers and had all those aforementioned beautiful clothes just sitting on the rail in my office, I had to get involved and put some sweet, pink looks together...
|Jacket: Charlotte Lewis, Dress: Jessica Shaw, Cycling shorts: COW Vintage, Earrings: Alana MacLeod, |
Bag: eBay, Sandals: Nike
|'Sisterhood is Powerful' detail. Jacket by Charlotte Lewis|
|Crop top, skirt & hat: COW Vintage, Scarf & necklace: Sophie Hinchliffe, |
Socks & Shoes: Topshop
|Hoody: Sophie Hinchliffe, Stole: Jessica Shaw, |
Dress (worn as skirt): Charlotte Lewis,
Earrings: Made by Me, Shoes: Topshop