Some Thoughts On…Chanel’s “Feminist” Protest for #PFW + Cher’s “Half-Breed

Ahhhh…Chanel! This storied brand is everything when it comes to fashion. While infinitely definitive of the sartorial desires of the upper echelon in the U.S., the 1%, Chanel however, from the days of its founder Gabrielle “Coco” to its current direction under austere iconoclast Karl Lagerfeld, since the 1990s has also garnered many a soft spot from individuals of other socioeconomic backgrounds and lovers of either the unattainable or celebrated in fashion. Also in recent years, the luxury house has embraced the outre or campy, and defiantly so through their accessories with memorable pieces including a Chinese take-out purse; a see-through cassette and boxy Lego clutches; a paper lunch bag (very Moschino); a medium-sized plastic-y Glad-esque weekender; a massive hula hoop beach bag, so as a brand they do know how to have fun and encourage spontaneity. Even if you don’t love fashion, who doesn’t respect or like Chanel? So in recent years, while maintaining its old school lineage possibly due to its longevity, it has connected very impressively to the new generation year after year. For their 2015 Spring/Summer runway presentation however, I must say I’m glad I wasn’t the only one that felt that the ending to their show with a (pseudo) feminist protest came across a little…insincere, or at least lackluster or half-baked. At the end of their candy-colored forecast (which they’ve done before) with the occasional striped short set and matching boots, dark-colored ensembles and surprise appearance from Gisele Bundchen (yay!), once all apparel had been showcased, the models returned with poster boards, signs, and megaphones as the chosen ones acted as third wave feminists. Slogans read “History is Herstory”, “Make Fashion Not War” and “Be Different”. Typical signs to recreate for anyone that’s ever Googled protests of the 20th century, though I will give credit to however came up with the unrealistic but every woman has thought it “Boys Should Get Pregnant Too”, and coverage for actress Emma Watson’s newly launched He for She. At first glance, it’s a nice attempt at showing support for feminism which has widely been in the news in America and overseas, the thing with Chanel’s feminist protest is that it transpired as jumping on the bandwagon. Coco herself was an advocate of women wearing a pantsuit and was like the Marlene Dietrich of fashion, with her headstrong sense of style and confident translation of one always being “irreplaceable”. In the Lagerfeld age however, while he has brought some brilliant moments (speaking of their runway shows, their 2005 resort showcase was a fantastic ode to the golden era of cinema), he hasn’t been without some flaws. Lagerfeld has criticized individuals who are of a certain weight (even after years of being heavy set himself); sometimes you’ll be hard pressed to find a woman of color on their runway beyond cafe con leche (though this show did include Liu Wen, Malaika Firth, Binx Walton, and a new brown-skinned model that walked alongside Joan Smalls, there were 12 out of 85 models of color present for this Chanel show), and Lagerfeld does have an incredibly curt sense of humor. What made him want to shout out feminism now so loud and proud? Naturally, devoted minions of fashion, Chanel, or insiders of the industry practically praised the “protest”, but the ending wasn’t without some doubting the sincerity of it. In recaps, the words “staged”, “mock”, “appropriate” and “faux” described the 2 minute heroine fighters. I’m not quite sure what it was that bothered me, but when I saw the pictures I winced. Whenever I tried to place why, my thoughts made a beeline to it just not coming across as genuine. Like since when does this current era of Chanel care? I know it’s not necessarily Chanel’s place to add emotional or vocal support for the copious cases of incidents that have challenged women’s rights, but even the word “feminism” and talking about it is very trendy right now. For about two years, discussions of what or isn’t the right example of a controversial or misunderstood movement have found it way to back to the drawing board and women who are in the public eye, ranging from business to journalism, fashion, and music either denouncing the term or embracing it. It would have been more impactful if Chanel had done this years ago, or even three, four seasons ago and not when it suddenly became en vogue in the mainstream. Wouldn’t it had been great if Chanel had done this when that Gloria Steinem documentary came out? Can we ever take fashion seriously when it suddenly wants to add their two cents? Racism is nearly acceptable in this industry, and as much as I appreciate the art form of it, and even its chichi reminders that the American Dream is only a satchel away, I will not ignore that fashion often doesn’t care about me, or the ladies, that much. Everytime I feel this way (read: annoyed) about an occurrence in the media, I sometimes feel bad about it, and in the sense of like I don’t want seem like I’m reaching, especially in this age of the think piece. Online journalists sometimes do the most in order to get hits or make something out of nothing because aside from celebrities getting caught unbridled, it’s a slow news day. Example: without even hearing the audio of what was said during the now infamous Solange-gate following the Met Ball, think pieces were written about the rivalries of sisters and the unfortunate matter of when familial situations get too close for home. I will say that I do feel that Chanel does appreciate women, but it is Gucci that backs an organization like Chime for Change for women’s rights. So Chanel’s feminist protest made a splash for this fall’s Paris Fashion Week, once the preview of these items from the runway hit Chanel flagships and retailers around the world, the fight for feminism and women’s rights will rage and fought for by martyrs like Malala Youszafai. Let’s see if Chanel keeps their word in supporting the advancement that “women’s rights are more than alright”. Screenshot 2014-10-04 at 1.10.08 PM Also… While watching the film Lords of Dogtown, there’s a scene in which three girls are jamming to Cher’s ’70s hit “Half Breed”. I totally forgot about this song, and while the concept (even the term) is a little uncomfortable, it’s fun to watch Cher from back in the day.

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