“There are years where nothing happens, and there are days where years happen.”
The statement above is an accurate representation of 2020, in the wake of a global pandemic and series of protests in Nigeria and other parts of the world. Lots of people have lost their jobs, and businesses and entire industries have been put on hold.
The question right now is, what does fashion have to do with any of these?
Well, everything by the looks of it. Fashion is a $3 trillion industry that employed more than 2 million people in the US alone as of January 2020. Fashion reach extends from the star-studded red carpet of Hollywood to diverse Ankara sellers at Onitsha Main Market. Studies show that the fashion industry makes up for a large global market share. Fashion is a representation of societal dreams, an expression of art. It can question societal norms, and it has a voice. And yet we must ask the question: Can fashion be a tool to tackle social and political issues? To which my reply is; being a voice is what fashion is all about.
Fashion has always interwoven itself with the social and political aspects of life. In the past, there were laws that prohibited commoners from dressing above their pay grade. There are other examples of this dual relationship.
Put simply, fashion acts as a reflection of our times, so inherently, it is political. Over time it has been used as a patriotic and propagandistic symbol. It expresses social issues that have to do with sexuality, gender, and race. What this shows today is that fashion as an industry now incorporates environmental concerns and social consciousness. Designers all over the world, irrespective of their status, are incorporating politics at different levels. Fashion has always been an instrument for change, and that’s its central attraction.
For designers, every choice you make influences your immediate environment, and by extension, the world, one way or the other. What you design, how you go about designing it, how you speak about your design, all entails politics.
With the recent happenings, people are starting to see the bigger picture and understand that fashion should be part of social and political conversations. It is the current system at work and the way it shows itself. For example, politics is on your TV, on the streets, and there is definitely politics on the clothes you wear.
Doing Something Different
Today, brands are fully engaged in various social and political arenas. They are taking a stand against political and social issues. Fashion, in itself, is a way of life. Fashion, as a concept, has evolved thanks to technology, social media, and globalization.
Part of its evolution and the fact that consumers are demanding more originality and authenticity are why fashion lending a voice in times like this. What you wear is a representation of yourself, most especially in towards world where first impressions count. Fashion is an instant language. Fashion is a way to express values and beliefs, as well as a medium of communication. It offers an avenue to do something different.
Even in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, fashion still has a say. If there is one atom of positivity that we can take from COVID-19, it is that it has given us a reset. We are now extra conscious of everything, and just like that, we are living with the future in mind. It seems after so many years of uncertainty, something new is coming. COVID has surfaced conversations we didn’t think we would be having within the fashion world. It doesn’t mean we would get a complete reset such that fashion becomes an essential aspect of political and social issues. But it has created a platform to ask questions. We can see the system for what it is and choose to be different. This makes it a great time to be in the fashion industry because you can help bring forward a shift as a designer.
Now, the shift might not be instantaneous; it might not even take place in the next few years. But the work has already started. Fashion already has a say in political and social issues. Let’s embrace this change, and make a new history.