RESIST! But Make It Fashion. By Ayana Bryant-Weekes
FASHION IS THE METHOD OF PROTEST
Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band told us in the simplest funkiest way to “express ourselves”. With no further instruction—just the bass line and horns, the 1988 hit inspires us to say, do, and create what we feel. In today’s society, self-
expression manifests in many forms—art, music, prose, poetry, and especially fashion.
While everyone may not be able to write a poem or song, or create an art masterpiece, we all wake up and get dressed everyday. What we choose to wear and how we choose to wear it can clearly give anyone who pays attention insight into our interests, morals, political and worldviews—fashion is the artistic presentation of just that.
On America’s Next Top Model (episode 2 of season 8) super model host Tyra Banks shared an unconventional interpretation of what it takes to master model posing, explaining that modeling is all about “acting like a hoe but making it ‘fashion’.” Since then, we immediately identified with the now iconic phrase (despite not knowing what it actually meant at the time) and fused it into our everyday lives, using fashion to emphasize our personal views. One of the leading trends in fashion is clothing with a literal message. Like generations before, our generation has become more adamant about using its voice
thus we gravitate towards messaging and symbolism nonetheless, paying even closer attention to brand ethics.
Almost as important as what we put into our bodies is what we put on them. It has become an early part of our purchasing process to research brands and their affiliates to ensure that their mission aligns with our personal code of ethics and accordingly using fashion to express support or censure for a particular cause or issue. For the 103 female
members of Congress, it was agreeing to wear white (and the traditional shades of the
women’s suffrage movement) at the President’s second State of the Union address this year, also marking 100 years since the 19th Amendment was passed by Congress granting women the right to vote.
Similarly, last year congresswomen dressed solidarity with Hollywood actresses who wore black to the Golden Globes by also wearing black to the State of the Union, in support of the #MeToo movement.
More recently, the call to action to boycott popular fashion brands like Prada, Gucci, and Moncler has led to the exposure of other brands that have fashioned culturally
offensive pieces or who’s affiliates have engaged in culturally offensive behavior opening up a healthy, action-driven discussion about the cultural responsibility companies have to their consumer base not to be offensive. Nike, one of the leading ath-leisure brands in the fashion industry, sent a clear message in less that 10 words with its 30th anniversary ad campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who knelt as the national anthem played before each game in the 2016-2017 season to make a statement against racial injustice and police brutality.
Fashion offers a vast set of resources that allow us to express exactly how we feel. From embracing the “not-so-fashion” parts of life in subtle ways with message tees or more extravagant interpretations – (i.e. the recently updated 2005 Viktor & Rolf “bed
dress” – dubbed the “overslept but make it fashion” meme)— to getting active for radical issues like protesting civil injustices, and opposing the problematic decisions of major companies, brands and public figures— we’ve found a way to resist but make it fashion.
By Ayana Bryant-Weekes
Writer, Editor and Language Artist.