Fashion is often thought of as a fanciful industry without any objectives or substance. However, fashion and politics has very often been intertwined. Firstly, it can be used as a reflection of the political and socioeconomic changes in society. For example, the hemline index is an economic theory that shows in periods of recession and austerity the fashionable hemline lengthens and in periods of growth and prosperity the hemline shortens. Fashion can also be used as the political statement in itself. That could be in the form of collective dressing - like the celebrities who donned black at the Oscars in solidarity with the Me Too movement - or by using the runway show as a form of political performance art, like in Hussein Chalayan's highly controversial spring 1998 collection which showed a series of increasingly shorter takes on Islamic traditional dress posing questions about attitudes towards Muslim women.
Political fashion can also be worn in a single piece using the beauty or eyecatching nature of the outfit while also displaying the wearer's convictions or calling to others with the same values - a form of individual activism. Below I'd like to showcase some of the best political vintage garments we have had, past or present, showing pieces from different designers that all make a punchy political statement. Please remember this is just to show how fashion can be used as political art and the views expressed by the designers don't necessarily reflect our own.
1989 Katharine Hamnett - 'Clean Up Or Die'
This stunning denim jacket is by political fashion doyenne, Katharine Hamnett. It has studs creating broken hearts, crossbones and skull & crossbones with 'clean up or die' across the bottom.
1980s Moschino - 'Fur Coats Are Worn By Beautiful Animals and Ugly People'
This amazing jacket is actually the second we've had from this collection, the first one we had sold in minutes and it is no surprise! This museum worthy jacket has the bold animal rights focused statement 'fur coats are worn by beautiful animals and ugly people'. It was created in a short pile faux fur fabric for Moschino's 'Fur for Fun' collection which was aimed at showing how fake fur can be just as good as real fur without the cruelty - an ethos which Jeremy Scott has carried on as creative director of Moschino.
1994 Moschino - 'Save Nature'
I wanted to show this piece next as it ties in perfectly with the previous jacket. This 'Save Nature' jacket was created just a few years after the 'Fur for Fun' jacket. This was part of his final collection and really shows the vision Franco had for his fashion house. The collection was named Ecouture (from eco and couture) and were made from organic cottons and other enviromentally friendly fabric. The labels from this collection also have 'Nature Friendly Garment' embroidered on them. It was a great sadness that Franco passed away so early as it would have been incredible to see if he would influence other fashion houses to be more eco friendly and where he would go next.
1990s Destroy by John Richmond - 'Destroy. Disassociate. Disorder.'
This jacket is by John Richmond for his cult-status Destroy line. I chose this jacket (which sold a while ago) because it sums up this line's political identity perfectly. It has punk style patches with statements like 'guns kill', anti drugs and 'Destroy Agent'. It also has Destroy's anarchic philsophy on the back 'Destroy. Disassociate. Disorder.'
1990s Carlo Colucci - 'The American Dream. Make me a Millionaire.'
This sweater is interesting because its intent is rather ambiguous. It could be a satirical poke at American materialism or it could be an aspirational statement expressed by the likes of hip hop stars at the time.
6 Key Designers who were known for creating political vintage fashion.
- Vivienne Westwood
- John Richmond
- Jean Paul Gaultier
- Katharine Hamnett
- Patrick Kelly
There are so many more examples of politics in fashion in single garments, from Gaultier putting men in skirts in 1994 or Vivienne Westwood's entire career so please check out some of our favourites on our pinterest board below.