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Using Fashion To Start Important Conversations

Traditionally, fashion has always been dismissed as a frivolous pastime, completely downplaying the complex work that goes into a garment and how cuts and silhouettes can inform how a person is perceived and identified. But, as more men and women in the field deconstruct their ideas and encourage the average person to understand the power of clothing and the creative freedom it can inspire, these views are slowly changing. Women are even starting to embrace the power of fashion as a means of protest.

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2018 is shaping up to be an interesting year in fashion for the everyday consumers, stylists, influencers and fashion elite. There is no better example of this than at the 2018 Women’s March, a protest event held simultaneously by women across the world on the 10th of January to promote expression, equality and privilege many men are afforded from birth.

Women got creative with their placards, sartorial choices and beauty looks. They were also encouraged to wear a simple woollen pink hat, crocheted or knitted to retain pointy ears. This hat became a cultural icon in such a short time, a symbol of feminism and a political statement.

Pink Hat #MeToo protesters. Photo credit: Daily Caller

At the 2018 Golden Globes, the movement upstaged the award ceremony. Thanks to an article published last year, an investigation exposed the acts of coercion, sexual persuasion and assault used by a powerful movie executive and several other influential men in fashion. In solidarity with the victims of these men and millions of other women who are silently enduring sexual assault, the vast majority of actors and actresses invited to the Golden Globes chose to forgo colours and prints for black. Some actresses also chaperoned activists as their guests to help them garner the much-needed publicity for their causes. Their non-verbal statement, picked up by news agencies, was heard loud and clear and spoke to end the crisis of sexual harassment in the entertainment industry.

So, what does our fashion here say? Well, a good number of designers returning to and updating traditional Nigerian screen printing, free hand and dyeing techniques sends a message to the rest of the world that we no longer see the work we create as inferior to work from the west.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in Christian Dior statement t-shirt. Photo credit: Stylist UK

Brands like Deola Sagoe, Fia Factory and Ituen Basi, have proven there is a market for luxury Nigerian brands and that we are finally ready to celebrate our heritage. We also have androgynous brands that seek to challenge our perceptions of sexuality and the limitations of those expectations, and brands that celebrate minimalism and excellent tailoring. Some other brands have followed in the style of Prabal Gurung, the Asian designer who actively champions legendary tees in asking important questions to the wearer and the audience for whom the clothing will be displayed. It might be hard, but the benefits are worth it in the end.

It took a whole red carpet of women to remind us of the victims of sexual assault, and they did so by simply choose to wear black instead of colour at a rally. They remind us of how powerful a medium fashion is, and how important it is that we see it as more than a necessity. It can be a powerful tool for important conversations, a way to change the world.

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