When politics meets fashion

Anna Wintour with daughter Bee Shaffer

Anna Wintour with daughter Bee Shaffer. Photo / Getty Images

At Marc Jacobs’ Fall ’16 show Anna Wintour sat front row with an image of Hilary Clinton on her t-shirt. When the queen of the fashion world wears a white t-shirt to New York Fashion Week, it has to be for a good cause.

Marc Jacobs is just one of three designers who have created a t-shirt to promote Clinton’s campaign. DKNY’s Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne designed a ‘Make Herstory’ slogan tee in honour of Clinton’s fight for equality and Tory Burch designed a colourful tribute tee that urges: ‘Women’s Rights are Human Rights.’

The tees are a bold declaration, but political statements are nothing new within the world of fashion:

For Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign Anna Wintour launched a fundraising clothing line, Runway to Win. Marc Jacobs and Tory Burch jumped on board once again with Alexander Wang, Jason Wu and 20 other well-known designers. Pro-Obama t-shirts, bags, dog collars and more were sold online. The initiative raised US$40 million, according to Businessweek.

English fashion designer Katharine Hamnett pioneered the political slogan t-shirt with a bold font and even bolder ideas. In the 80s she met Margaret Thatcher in her own oversize tee plastered with “58% ARE OPPOSED TO PERSHING” – a poll result regarding controversial nuclear missile storage. The designer activist hit headlines once again in 2003 after sending Naomi Campbell down the runway with a glittery “USE A CONDOM” slogan emblazoned across a mesh tank.

Has Vivienne Westwood ever not been as political as she is fashionable? In the 70s, the icon designed tees with Sex Pistols lyrics and punk motifs; in the 80s she posed as Thatcher on the cover of Tatler and in the twenty tens she declared her support for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange by wearing an ‘I am Julian Assange’ slogan tee at London Fashion Week. More recently, Westwood founded the Climate Revolution campaign, stood up for Scottish independence with her SS15 themed show and even got naked for PETA and vegetarianism.

As part of Vital Voice’s global partnership, Diane Von Furstenberg helps fund and promote others to ‘invest in women, improve the world’. She organises events and speaks out about the strength of women frequently.

A New Zealand designer with a global outlook and conscience, Karen Walker has been working with artisans in Africa to promote work opportunities for disadvantaged groups. Through the United Nation’s ITC Ethical Fashion Initiative, colourful clutches, totes and sunglass holders have been created by women of the Samburu and Maasai tribes. Some artisans have even featured in Karen Walker’s ‘Visible’ eyewear campaign.

Ollie Henderson founded House of Riot by hand painting 100 t-shirts for Australian Fashion Week in 2014. The messages (still sold online) include ‘Cull Hate Not Sharks’, ‘Sexisim Sucks’ and ‘Save the Humans’. The brand’s agenda is to promote equality, openness, environmental awareness and freedom. The brand particularly urges young people to engage with political issues.

Words: Jessica-Belle Greer