Politics is a matter exercised on a wide range of social levels, so is fashion, which constitutes a part of and reflects each country’s political atmosphere. What is going on in the USA today is a clear proof of it. The open letter of Sophie Theallet has suddenly created an inconvenient situation, which makes many designers take a distance from politics by making themselves unavailable for mass media and others just refuse to give any comment. Their behaviour is a clear political strategy though. Everyone is waiting for someone to break the silence and set a “right” direction which will affect future trends, future sales and future of American fashion and fashion in general.
Tommy Hilfiger has, according to WWD, become one of the first designers to speak. His comment “I do not think people should become political about it” shows actually how politicised fashion is.
Fashion as a phenomenon started at the royal courts of Europe as a clear political tool – to emphisize and manifest the greatness and wealth of the monarch within the country and the empire’s prosperity for the neighbours outside. Therefore the issue who will dress or not dress the first lady-to-be is of great importance. It is not about clothes but the great power’s political and cultural physiognomy.
Yesterday, 22 November 1963 President John F. Kennedy was assassinated but people still remember the pink suit, often ascribed to Chanel, Jacqueline was wearing on that devastating day. Since then it became a certain symbol for grief. Hugo Boss was the supplier of SA, SS, Wehrmacht and Hitlerjugend uniforms.
Fashion is a system with its inner and outer structure with a designer as a head of it, started by Charles Frederick Worth in 1858 in Paris and followed by Paul Poiret, Christian Dior, Gucci, Chanel, etc. When we hear the name of any fashion house, we associate it with a person – the designer. When it concerns politics, it is the same – each political party has its leader. Fashion needs politicians and celebrities to attract consumers and implement trends. Politicians need fashion to establish a political picture by creating a certain image of the leader and thus to attract electorate. Hence, fashion is based on a story-telling tactics, while politics has propaganda as its crucial tool and those are overlapping each other and thus coexist in each other’s spheres. Fashion is a part of the national identity, which forms the basis for political agenda.
I recall the Chanel Fashion Show Spring/Summer 2015 at Grand Palais, in Paris, where the slogan “Make Fashion Not War” appeared and people all of a sudden started talking politics. In my opinion the slogan has its highest immediacy today than ever before. However, I would add that by making fashion and being a part of the fashion system, everyone has a responsibility to understand the causality between fashion and politics.