Women in Fashion

In light of International Women’s Day, Club 21 celebrates the various women whose vision and diligence inform the ways we dress today, and on top of that, what we as consumers can do to contribute to creating a more balanced and sustainable industry.

Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons

Ever since Comme des Garçons’ Paris début in 1991, the house and its lead designer Rei Kawakubo has repeatedly been described as a game-changer, and with good reason. With each and every collection, Kawakubo has questioned established standards of beauty and other dominant modes of thought. Her clothes satirise fashion’s sexualisation and commercialisation of the body through silhouettes that distort, manipulate and disobey its natural form, ultimately creating a new standard for what is considered beautiful, attractive or appealing. The designer herself has proclaimed that “Comme des Garçons is a gift to oneself, not something to appeal or to attract the opposite sex.” The house’s Spring/Summer 2019 collection was an unequivocal musing on womanhood, illustrating the plight of a woman’s own anatomy, her place in society and internalised psychological conditionings. Fashion found its power to cultivate autonomy and independent thinking, and we have Rei Kawakubo to thank for that.

Chitose Abe of Sacai

Women take on many roles, and wear many hats. They are an individual, as much as they are perhaps a friend, a mother, a professional and more. Shouldn’t their wardrobe reflect this diversity and fluidity? That is the challenge Sacai’s Chitose Abe had set herself: to create clothes suitable for every occasion. After becoming pregnant and leaving her job as a pattern cutter at Comme des Garçons, Abe felt a sense of isolation from being a stay at home mum. She then took the advice of her husband — Junichi Abe of Kolor — to create a handful of special pieces as a means to get back into doing what she loves, and so Sacai was birthed. Sacai’s signature method of hybridisation splices clothing from seemingly disparate and opposing influences, cutting and re-constructing, with the goal of making something new. Femininity and delicacy mixed with masculine elements; elegance and lightness mixed with function and utility; her silhouettes combine a whole host of styles that pursues equilibrium the very same way a woman seeks to achieve balance in life.

Stella McCartney

If fashion was long criticised for being merely concerned with what’s on the surface, British fashion designer Stella McCartney is slowly but steadily changing that. Since the inception of her brand in 2001, McCartney has made eco-conscious, sustainable and cruelty-free practices the central tenet of her label. In the process, McCartney has not only demystified the construction of clothes, but has also encouraged us to reevaluate our relationship to them by adopting a more circular mentality. Eschewing fast fashion’s model of buy and throw away, McCartney seeks to create items that last longer, and to instill in buyers a custom whereby they form an emotional relationship with their wardrobe. Her use of new, innovative materials such as alter-calf, alter-micro suede and neoprene as alternatives to more traditional luxury materials like fur, silk and leather reconfigures the traditions of an age-old industry and expands our understanding of what constitutes ‘luxury materials’. With Stella McCartney in the picture, the way we dress today is simultaneous to building a better tomorrow.

Women in the garment industry

When we buy our clothes, do we consider the hands that made them? The garment industry is one of the most female-dominated industries in the world, with a majority of its workers from Bangladesh, China, and Cambodia. Yet, despite being a source of income for a vast majority of these women, their lives are nevertheless imperiled due to a number of factors such as poor working conditions, a lack of wage security, workplace oppression and exhaustion from overtime, to name a few of the many issues that plague the livelihood of these women — all in the name of fast fashion. Consumers play a crucial role in the global garment supply chain, and there is an inextricable link between the clothes we buy and the lives of the people who produce them. By rethinking their relationship to clothing, by buying better and smarter, and pushing for a fairer, more sustainable industry, shoppers are making a small but powerful first step in creating real emancipatory change for these women and their chance to live a more balanced and independent life.