Feminism is a hot topic in fashion now — but what makes a brand feminist?
We have Mara Hoffman who invited the founders of the women's march to their fashion show, and post protest style on their instagram, yet only work with and display thin models. The once popular "This is What A Feminist Looks Like" Tee Shirt from ELLE Uk and The Fawcett Society took a turn in sales when it was revealed that they are produced in a Mauritian sweat shop which underpays its female employees. Then we have Missoni, who designed a fashion line around knitted pink pussy hats, while only featuring thin models on the runway and selling clothing that never went above a size 10. And look at Aeri, who have been making a splash with their anti-photoshop "Real" campaign, in which they only feature thin women.
Brands that claim a feminist title but don't challenge the industry's lack of regard for women's lives are not in fact feminists — but rather they are turning feminism into a trend that they can profit off of.
In looking for authentic feminist brands to feature, we had a few factors in mind: body positivity (that includes actual fat people), ethical labor practices, ethical environmental practices, and LGBTQ and POC inclusion. Sadly, the brands whose business models are fueled by ethics rather than money don't turn as much of a profit — and this is why those of us with the means to do so should consider supporting them.
But while the climate for these brands can feel discouraging, some larger brands like Modcloth help demonstrate that it is possible to do all these things and be successful as a business. The more we vote with our money, the more we can see brands that reflect our values.
Update 3.14.17: Just heard word of Thinx not treating employees well despite feminist values.
Update 3.15.17: Model Tyler Ford has bravely come forward to share their transphobic experience when pitching Thinx for a modeling gig. Thinx has been removed from this list.
Update 10.7.17: We removed Modcloth because they are now owned by Walmart
rebellelion is a small collective of anti-establishment creatives. They reject the traditional fashion production model in which clothing is mass produced, over-priced, and "slathered in logos." What's more, they don't have a logo at all. They say, "our goal is not to be identifiable by a name or a symbol. . . rebellelion is not something that we own, but a shared idea. experimentation fueled by D.I.Y. spirit. proud to be rough around the edges, pushing our limits & embracing imperfection. unpolished & unapologetic. we thrive on collaboration & seek to support a community through art & activism. "
LOVE, CORTNIE was founded in the Summer of 2011 in the founder's Grandmother's kitchen: "I had always wanted to learn how to sew, but never made the time to actually learn. That August I was in between jobs, and well, finally had the time. My grandmother is super handy around the house. Upholstering furniture, drapery, clothing, you name it, she could do it. So it was very important to me that I learn from her." The founder features many styles on their blog, where they proudly show off pregnant fashion.
3. Lonely Label
Lonely is a New Zealand-based design house that creates lingerie, swimwear and clothing. Each Lonely collection "is part of an ongoing conversation that maintains a consistent design ethos committed to outstanding comfort, unique signature silhouettes, and custom prints and fabrications." Bringing their collections to life through the Lonely Girls Project, Lonely features models from all walks of life. In particular, Lonely is known for showing models over 50.
Ready to Stare is a body positive apparel and accessory brand by size activist Alysse Dalessandro. With a focus on handcrafting everyday statement pieces, Ready to Stare launched in February 2012 with a small collection of jewelry pieces on Etsy. Ready to Stare quickly established itself as a player in the growing Chicago fashion scene selling at more than six different boutiques throughout the city by the end of their first year. Ready to Stare debuted their now signature body chains in a fashion show in May 2012. As one of the first brands to design plus size body chains, Ready to Stare has remained an innovator in this field.
Bluestockings' mission is to empower people who have been marginalized by the mainstream lingerie industry and to offer them an experience that reflects their identities, their bodies, and their values. Bluestockings' values are based on LGBTQIA+ Inclusivity, Ethical manufacturing, sustainability, transparency, and community. They stock a wide range of products that cater to people of color and they celebrate bodies of all shapes and sizes.
Rebirth Garments are gender non-conforming wearables and accessories for people on the full spectrum of gender, size and ability. They are designed and made by hand by, Sky Cubacub, a genderqueer person of color from Chicago, IL with life long anxiety and panic disorders. "Our identity is that of QueerCrip, a politicized umbrella term that encompasses queer, gender nonconforming identities, visible and invisible disabilities/ disorders—physical, mental, developmental, emotional, etc."
Birdsong works with exclusively female designers and holds a promise of no sweatshops & no photoshop. Many of their items are hand made.
As Qwear's Founding Editor, Sonny’s work centers around envisioning a future in which the clothing people wear does not dictate their chances of survival. Sonny was awarded 2015 dapperQ of the Year and was the first trans blogger to be sponsored by Topman. In March 2016, Sonny spoke at South by South West's first official queer fashion panel.