The Problem With Karl Lagerfeld’s Feminist Protest At Paris Fashion Week

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Well who would’ve thought there would be an out and out feminist display at Paris Fashion Week of all places!

Karl Lagerfeld made sure his Chanel show got the attention of more than just fashion industry luminaries and fashion bloggers, by staging a protest.

On ‘Chanel Boulevard’ patrons and onlookers were treated to a high fashion show featuring the likes of the highest paid model in the world Gisele Bundchen, reality TV family member turned model Kendall Jenner, Joan Smalls, Cara Delevingne, Georgia May Jagger and many more.

After the show, the models then appeared grouped together holding protest signs with slogans such as “history is her story”, “make fashion not war”, “feminism not masochism”, “women’s rights are more than alright ” and “be different”.

The girls were dressed in a version of 70s clothing and marched down the boulevard in a form of fake protest. In the audience, Oscar-winning director Baz Luhrmann sat alongside Vogue editor Anna Wintour and celebrated fashion photographer Mario Testino witnessed the outlandish show.

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While we love that Paris Fashion Week managed to inject some feminism into its event, we’re not sure it was completely on the money. Karl Lagerfeld has been criticized in the past for his negative comments about women. He called Adele fat, he said Pippa Middleton should only be seen from the back, and also thinks Coco Chanel wasn’t a feminist because she wasn’t ugly enough.

So why are we even mentioning this show here? Because it’s important that a major cultural event like Paris Fashion Week and one of the world’s most celebrated couture designers recognizes the impact of a message.

Staging a feminist protest isn’t exactly helpful when you are known for dissing women for not fitting into a specific and narrow mold. What this Chanel runway show proves is that feminism still has a lot of misguided opinions attached to it. The fact that someone can’t be a feminist because of the way they look is absurd.

It is also a little insulting to all the suffragettes and women over the decades who have fought hard for things such as women’s rights, history being inclusive of important females and gender equality. What Karl Lagerfeld did was use Chanel and the platform of fashion week to elevate feminism in a way that shows how much work still needs to be done on fixing its image.

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It’s frustrating that we have to spend so much time and effort trying to educate certain people on what feminism means and what feminists stand for in 2014, rather than actually get on with the work.

Here are a few suggestions we think might’ve given more cred to this runway show: instead of just having the models change clothes after the show for the protest, why not invite groups of real Parisian feminist groups to come and be part of the show and make a statement less fake, and more feminist?

While feminists aren’t all “ugly” Karl, they certainly aren’t all super skinny high fashion models either. What about inviting Paris’ first ever female mayor Anne Hidalgo to the show and asking her to walk down the boulevard to show how powerful feminism can be and how it benefits women in leadership?

There are many more ways this feminist protest could’ve really made a splash and stood alongside other fashion week shows that have chosen to be set apart from the run of the mill. Perhaps Karl should’ve called up Paris-based American designer Rick Owens who so far is the master at making a statement about representation, diversity and women in a Paris fashion week show.

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Rick has shunned high fashion models in favor of urban step dancers from New York and older women at some of his recent shows, reiterating that the fashion industry needs to adapt, or die with mediocrity.

The thing is, fashion should be a platform for feminism, not the other way round. We can see through a cheap trick a mile away. And that’s what this boils down to, simply a piece of “theater” to get the masses talking, but not about the right thing.

We know Karl makes great clothes, he has proved it many times over the years. But if he truly wants to win back the hearts of women everywhere, he needs to have a serious think about his message and using the feminist tag in his shows. And if he doesn’t care two hoots about diversity and representing real women’s bodies, then please for the love of God stay far, far away from feminism, and stick to fashion.

We’re pretty sure Gloria Steinem wouldn’t be very impressed with what she is seeing. Feminism is about fighting for something: equality. We’ve got to ask ourselves how on earth this fashion show echoed any part of the notion of equality. Not sure about you guys, but it left us scratching our heads wondering what part of the show, save for a few bell bottoms and poster signs, was the feminist revolution?

Ex-Vogue editor-at-large Andre Leon Talley recently lamented that fashion still has a long way to go in terms of diversity. And that is a male perspective! Naomi Campbell, Iman and fashion activist Bethann Hardison formed the Diversity Coalition to force all 4 major fashion week organizers to look within their ranks and address the growing problem of homogeny. These are the people who are really doing something impactful and spreading important messages to the fashion world.

A for effort Karl, but there was no soul behind this show and we’re left feeling a little disappointed. Here’s hoping another designer will look at this event and try to capitalize on what Karl failed to do.

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2 Comments

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