By Prashalan Govender
In 2017 allegations regarding the media mogul Harvey Weinstein came to light and fueled the discourse around the discomfort and gender-discrimination which had been existing in the workplace for generations. This fire led to more than conversation on assault and harassment; it led to subtle but significant changes in the fashion industry.
Before the #MeToo movement, runways consisted mainly of clothing for street-wear and a night out than work-wear. However, since the movement, runways have started to take comfort into consideration because the #MeToo movement has ushered in a new wave of thinking - a woman dresses for herself, not to appease others. Thus, fashion houses like Chanel, Balenciaga and more have done away with making style of the utmost importance and started looking into comfort as a priority. Such houses have done so by providing great alternatives to heels and dresses that make the outline of a women’s body visible (often leaving women feeling very conscious of their physical appearance). The brands now create and widely distribute platform sneakers, cowboy boots, and flat sandals. With regard to the dresses, fashion houses have made the dresses more comfortable by creating looser-fitting dresses, skirts that are ankle length and sleeves that come all the way down to the hand. Furthermore, fashion houses have widened the availability and range of alternatives for dresses: incorporating jumpsuits and suits.The latest Chanel collection is a testament to this change in women’s work-wear.
Additionally, handbags are no longer architected for carrying miscellaneous small items. Instead bags are that are bigger and both formal and feminine are now widely available and consistently being represented and updated on the runway. The bigger bag is a huge step in making women feel more comfortable in the work environment as for too long women would have to carry two bags; one for their laptop and another one for their smaller possessions such as cosmetics and their phone. In fact, some brands have created mini-backpacks to give women practicality for their goods and comfort for their travels.
Furthermore, advertisements have dramatically changed. Brands used to encourage the idea that a woman would always feel better when she was being acknowledged, ultimately catcalled, by strangers (strange men). A perfect example of this would be the Jimmy Choo 2017 collection campaign. In the 2017 campaign, supermodel Cara Delevingne walks the streets of New York City as people stop and stare at her shoes with one man whistling and saying “Nice shoes, lady.”
The 2018 campaign on the other hand, recognised that women can dress for recognition but they can also dress for themselves .The campaign had three models (Lilly Aldridge, Joan Smalls, and Rosie Huntington-Whitely) incorporating the idea of sisterhood that arose from the #MeToo movement, and begins with the women enthusiastically greeting each other with a fierce hug that leads to them collapsing onto a nearby bed. The women then head into a wardrobe and start trying on clothes together while dancing, laughing, and eating. The ad concludes with the women doing their catwalk and then slipping under the covers for rest. The differences of the messages are clear: the 2017 campaign wants women to believe that wearing Jimmy Choo will make people stop and stare while the 2018 campaign wants women to wear Jimmy Choo because it’s comfortable and lively.
Thus, conspicuous changes have been made to the fashion industry. However, there is still a lot that the industry has to overcome. Skepticism remains over whether or not the adaption to the era is clout or consideration, and designers who are reluctant to change their ways. It seems only time will tell whether or not fashion can grow or stay stagnant in this #MeToo era.