Fashion. Fashion. Fashion. Often seen as frivolous, flippant and female (not that the three necessarily go together!), discussions about fashion are not always taken seriously. This is a shame as fashion has the power to address important and weighty issues. Because fashion is a system and process that impacts all of us at many levels of our material and social lives, it is also a lens to view why, what and how things seem to be as they are.
Falling into the category of weighty issues to be probed is woman, women, females, femaleness, femininity and feminism. All of which relate to garments and how we wear and think about our clothes, which is why with International Women’s Day (IDW) tomorrow (8th March) there is much to think about: women and their bodies; economic disparity; workplace relations; the threat of violence; women and consumption; our environment and climate change, to mention just a few.
While we need more than a single day to mark out women, as a celebration and as a spotlight on the issues still facing women, International Women’s Day is a chance to recognise women, their achievements and hear their voices on a range of issues. With ecological fragility hanging in the balance, delicate power relations the world over and the domination of economic language in the public sphere, it is imperative that we seek out voices to speak about change. We must build in structures to listen to those speaking more quietly – a significant challenge for thinking about the future of the world around us and how we would like it to be.
The Women of the World (WoW) at the Southbank Centre is a space where these voices can be heard. Launched in 2009 the event has continued to grow and grow each year. In an interview with the Evening Standard, Jude Kelly, artistic director of the SouthBank said she started the festival “to ensure there was a high-profile cultural space where hundreds of women’s stories could be shared”.
This year CSF’s Dr. Kate Fletcher will be taking part in a panel discussion on Sunday, which will be an opportunity for the various voices in the fashion and sustainability arena to be heard. ‘Louboutins to Landfill. How to be a Sustainable Fashionista’ will seek to address some of the contradictions and issues that need to be brought more into the main stream. Is it possible for fashion to raise hard hitting, big issues and solutions – or be brushed off as irrelevant, drowned out in the rush for consumption?
Kate will be in discussion with Melanie Rickey about her work on Local Wisdom and the Craft of Use. By widening the parameters of what constitutes fashion and moving it out of the sphere of consumption, Kate focuses on the users and a world where having and economic growth are not the primary goals. We’ll be posting a report of the event next week.
Also on the panel with Dr. Kate Fletcher this weekend are: Jacqueline Shaw, author of the Africa Fashion Guide, Carry Somers, founder of Fashion Revolution Day and owner of Pachacuti; and Abigail Murray, ex Vogue editor and founder of Designer Jumble Sale. If you would like to join the discussion it will take place in the Blue Room at 1pm on Sunday.