Protest Chic

Fashion has, to some extent, always been about message. These messages may have, at times, been slightly counter-productive and even hypocritical, but the fashion world has always flirted with socio-economic statement, purely for the edgy, counter-cultural vibe it gives their wares.

Little wonder, then, that the latest manifestation of sartorial comment is protest chic, a fairly new phenomenon borne of current political and economic circumstances and the high-profile protests that have spawned as a result.

© Unconditional

The agendas on offer are certainly dynamic in their presentation – anti-globalisation, anti-capitalism, climate change; this season, it seems, the one article that no self-respecting fashionista should be seen without is an opinion.

A look at this year’s G20 protests in London certainly does a lot to prove this – the protesters on the front lines were, in many cases, more likely to be sporting designer sunglasses and sloganised clothing than dreadlocks and excessive facial piercings.

It is a sad fact that a significant percentage of those protesting at such events, particularly in the affluent West, are not doing so out of a selfless wish to fight an institutional evil; for many it is all about the aesthetic. The thrill of rebellious discord is, to some, an incredibly romantic and idealised concept, and the proletarian drama of the picket line is something they wish to immerse themselves in, despite having little knowledge of the issues being protested about.

It is this group of protesters that have the genuine hardliners up in arms – an anti-capitalist protest arguably holds less weight if the person next to you is holding a Louis Vuitton handbag. Nevertheless, despite the perceived superficiality, it possibly represents something much more positive; people, particularly the youth, are becoming more interested and observant when it comes to politics.

© Marc by Marc Jacobs

The first decade of the 21st Century has, so far, been a fairly comfortable one for Generation Y – those in the West are lucky enough that they live in a society where politics is something that can be safely ignored, compared with other, more oppressive nations. It is only recently, since the collapse of the American sub-prime market that politics has entered the mainstream consciousness as something that needs our attention.

So what exactly is the protest chic look? Well, according to various patrons of the look, it’s important to capture the hippy feel, without subscribing fully to the hippy aesthetic. So, vintage and flea market finds are in, but shabby, overworn items are out and, generally, conspicuous labels are too, although some do find it very difficult to part with the designer accessories.

Think Glastonbury boho-esque festival styles and you’re on the right track. Protest chic is very much about being fashion-free – typically, items are bought second-hand and therefore do not subscribe to typical industry ideals regarding fashion.

However, this doesn’t stop major brands trying to emulate the look – numerous labels such as Lacoste and Vivienne Westwood Red Label have incorporated layered knitwear, loose trousers and nostalgic patterns and checks into their latest collections for the A/W 09/10 season.

© Lacoste

© Vivienne Westwood Red Label

Plenty of thrift-store knitwear, classic patterns and functionality are key features of protest chic, as are sloganised t-shirts and dynamic graphics, particularly those with a slightly subversive edge. So, this autumn, get yourself to the frontlines and shout like you mean it.

James

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One Response to “Protest Chic”

  1. ‘Woodstock’s 40th Anniversary’ by Sarah Leigh « Welcome To The Fold Says:

    […] most notably in a calm and orderly fashion, as documented in Welcome To The Fold’s September post Protest Chic, objecting against anything from war, to lack of money, to unemployment to climate […]

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