Feminist faux pas at Paris Fashion Week

The Chanel fashion house ended its Sept. 30 Paris Fashion Week show with a staged feminist protest. On the set of the Grand Palais des Champs-Élysées, models and other fashion royalty marched alongside Chanel head designer and creative director Karl Lagerfeld. The question remains, however: was this actually a sincere feminist proclamation or just a fashion house jumping on this new coming-of-age, social media-fueled, feminist revolution bandwagon that seems to have taken over the Internet?

Whatever the case, this is certainly not the right time for Chanel to joke about feminism on the runway, especially considering the fashion industry’s long history of celebrating an image of an “ideal woman” that is both limiting and harmful.

The faux protest itself seemed anything but genuine. Top runway walkers such as Cara Delevingne and Gisele Bündchen led the “protest” in style holding signs that read “Ladies First,” and “History is Her Story.”

The organizers, whomever they may be, seemed to have paid incredible attention to detail for the set—a sun-bleached Parisian street, splotched with motor oil and puddles. The act itself, however, is so theatrical it hurts.

This realism of environment juxtaposed with the seemingly inauthentic protest actually adds insult to injury for feminists everywhere. We could shrug it off as just a shoddy job, but we know that Lagerfeld knows better.

What Chanel showcased on its runway did not reflect the message of the faux-feminist protest at all. The medium of the clothing itself expressed what might excuse the act from being anti-feminist altogether. Menswear dominated the runway with a lot of tweed, a material that was once favored by British middle-class men for its durability and affordability. The designs also included pantsuits and pinstripes, as well as loose-fitting and flat-heeled fashions.

This subtle play on gender can be read as an attempt to turn the fashion industry around in a time in which we are all aware of the negative effects the industry has had on female empowerment. Despite the tasteless execution of this so-called protest, maybe this attempt will––at the very least––raise awareness about a perennial problem in women’s fashion.u