The momentum of the #TimesUp movement continues to grow, with CBS reporting many actresses nominated will be wearing black in a show of support. We asked four designers about the power of dressing for social change.
Since New Year’s Day, the #TimesUp legal defense fund set up by Hollywood actresses to help combat sexual harassment and abuse across all industries has stirred up waves of support online. And come Sunday, January 7, they’ll be bringing their message into around 20 million homes.
With industry nominees reportedly donning all-black looks in a show of solidarity with harassed and abused working women everywhere, media outlets and voices on social media will be pondering the effectiveness of fashion as a tool for political discussion—and whether the symbolic gowns-of-choice of Hollywood’s elite is a serious enough forum for discussions of gender inequality.
But it can’t hurt, right? Especially if red carpet journalists (with their usual sartorial line of questioning) prompt thoughtful commentary and calls to action from those present.
Cynics will say it’s not enough. Optimists will say symbolic gestures have the potential to reach more people, and open up dialogue (and hopefully, donations). But what about the people whose livelihoods rely on the symbolic? Female fashion designers, many of whom are well-versed in the dialogue surrounding the male gaze and the effects (and possible limitations) of making a political statement with clothing, will be taking up the challenge.
We asked four international designers—US designer Rebecca Minkoff, Shanghai label SHUSHU/TONG’s Yutong Jiang, iconic Australian designer Jenny Kee, and Californian local Raqual Allegra—what they think about the power, passion and protest that wearing the color black can signify.
“For me personally, wearing black means I want to focus on the color in my design work. I fully support wearing black as a symbol of protest, and this movement is more than past due. But my question is: What comes after this? Did these actresses achieve what they wanted? And how can we go even deeper and help turn it into an greater movement?
Wearing black on Sunday is a great start, but maybe it could still go a lot further and deeper. Maybe the Golden Globes could have gone dark, and televised a donation call centre.
Let’s turn it into an even bigger movement. Wearing black is a start, but it needs to go deeper.”
SHUSHU/TONG’s Yutong Jiang
“Black is the color which contains every other color, so it’s the most powerful one. I personally feel safer and stronger wearing black.
Wearing black speaks a very simple and direct message to the audience watching the Golden Globes—the determination to end sexual harassment. This is very meaningful. It’s time that everyone helped fight against this. Fashion is always reflecting social movements. That’s a powerful thing.”
“Wearing black as symbol of protest is powerful, especially en masse in this way. It shouts ‘women mean business!’ As a designer, I find that black symbolizes style, elegance, strength and confidence.
Black is perfect for actresses to wear to make stand against sexual harassment. It will leave a strong impression. It’s time to stop. Black also symbolizes a dark force, or ‘evil,’ which is what sexual harassment is! A black hole of hell. Humanity needs to move into the light!
When I started designing in the ’70s in Australia, the clothes screamed originality and national pride—rebelling strongly against ‘safe dressing’ in a time of great social change. We need to feel those times again!”
“Any color worn in solidarity is unifying. But choosing black means serious business. It is a powerful and empowering color. It reminds me of the rally call I grew up hearing as a young girl growing up in political Berkeley: ‘Take back the night.’ I’m sure the Golden Globe actresses wearing black will feel that they’ve taken back the night.
Wearing the color black can acknowledge and mourn the loss of self we can feel as victims of sexual abuse and harassment. I believe that when sexual harassment goes unrecognized and unpunished to the degree that the victim feels powerless, there can be devastating lifelong effects. It can feel like being followed around by a Shadow of Self Doubt. I know this through seeking deep understanding of my own traumatizing sexual harassment and sexual abuse experiences.
The world watches Hollywood. For Hollywood to take this stand is courageous. I believe it can begin to shine a light on the darkness of something real that is difficult for us as a society to talk about. Healing begins with acknowledgement that there is disease. Bring on the healing.”
Words: Jerico MandyburPhoto: Stocksy