Fashionably Late? Chanel on Feminism

So you may or may not have heard that during Paris Fashion Week Karl Lagerfeld and his tribe of model followers stormed the fictional ‘Boulevard Chanel’ in the name of women’s rights. It would appear that Feminism is officially ‘in’.

Boulevard Chanel

Feminism has, of late, had something of a renaissance in the media, becoming a hot topic among the young women of the western world. Gone are the days where women associated a Feminist with a hairy-legged bra burner as über babes such as Beyonce and Katy Perry (sort of) have started declaring their Feminist beliefs to the world. Just like one of Lagerfeld’s mock protest signs, the mantra these days appears to be ‘Feminist but Feminine’.

2014 MTV Video Music Awards - Fixed Show

Now I will confess that I am what some people might refer to as a ‘soft-core’ Feminist (I like to think I coined that phrase but truly I have no idea). For me Feminism is about embracing what it is to be a woman and an individual whilst also understanding that regardless of any differences or similarities women are equal to men in every way. I once referred to myself as egalitarian or ‘humanist’ or something of that ilk but Caitlin Moran taught me not to be ashamed of the word Feminist and Feminist I have stayed since.

Anyway, what I am saying is that I am a pink-loving, make up wearing, fashion worshipping Feminist who believes that as long as I chose to like what I like, then I have beat the patriarchy and so has every other woman in the same position – whether she’s a writer, wrestler, car mechanic or, of course, a model.

So I was surprised that when I saw Lagerfeld’s ‘demonstration’ the first voice I heard was my inner-cynic saying ‘well he’s late to jump on that bandwagon’. And I must admit that despite my liberal and admittedly pretty relaxed outlook on the world the idea of supermodels in thousands of pounds worth of couture demonstrating about gender equality as part of a catwalk show had an unsavoury taste for me. Especially walking alongside a man who is infamous for making crude or uncaring physical remarks about women.

By making a demonstration about a genuine global issue a ‘display’ or ‘art piece’ I felt that Lagerfeld had removed it from the realms of the real world and had thus negated the gravity of an issue – which he seemed to be using only  for publicity.

I rolled the idea around in my mind for a while – true he was drawing attention to a real cause but had he done it the right way ? Would gender equality be perceived as a real issue or just seen as another piece of fashion week fiction?

Feminist Chanel

It wasn’t until later that something quite stunning occurred to me. I was the problem. It was me who couldn’t take it seriously. The fact that Feminism was being mixed with fashion and models was making me believe that the cause was losing its integrity. I had become the one person I never wanted to be – the woman hating Feminist.

I have never believed that valuing beauty or liking clothes makes a woman any less of a Feminist. Whilst I don’t believe that girls should aspire to be beautiful when they could become say, a doctor or a lawyer, I have never seen any issue in celebrating beauty as one might appreciate a piece of art. The world would be a dull place without beauty in it.

So why now was I so ready to judge the ideals portrayed on that catwalk, just because the placards were held by beautiful women wearing beautiful clothes? Yes, not every Feminist agrees with the modelling or fashion industries, but did I really think that these people’s beliefs were any less legitimate just because of a career choice? As an aspiring fashion journalist I was surprised that I had let myself be drawn into the way of thinking that I so hate to see in my fellow Feminists.

The face of Feminism is changing fast,  it has been rebranded. And I have celebrated that change because it is making the movement approachable and the cause real to people who may never have realised that there was a problem in the first place. No longer “the preserve of the academic, of the white, middle-class journalist”, Feminism is becoming part of popular culture and thus more and more alive to the men and women whom it once terrified. So yeah, Lagerfeld may have been a bit late to the party, and he may have worn a funny outfit, but he has come to one damn good party. . .

Feminist Chanel


 Some images sourced from Flickr Creative Commons

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