A new movement is underway in the fashion industry
The Short Version
Digital fashion magazine Business of Fashion (BOF) introduced the #tiedtogether campaign this week, just in time for the ready-to-wear fashion season. Its aim is to provide a focus point for unity and inclusiveness by asking people to wear white bandanas.
A Little More Detail
There’s not a whole lot more to write on the matter. BoF’s own #tiedtogether page is rather brief and void of too many details. The movement is in response to the significant silence on the part of the fashion industry as a whole regarding recent world events, such as the US travel ban and the impact of more nation-centric trade deals. Fashion brands must have a global presence to be successful, but things such as travel limitations and high import fees/tariffs can not only strain the business side of fashion but create animosities between people from different countries.
Few fashion brands have bothered to say much about political situations for fear the backlash might hurt business. While there was some dustup last month regarding which designers might dress the new First Lady of the United States, most companies have chosen to not take a stand. The most notable exception is Levi’s, the denim jean maker, which signed on to an amicus brief for the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals opposing the travel ban.
BoF’s movement is admirable, to be sure. With the world seeming to fray at the edges, it would seem that we could do with a little more unity and inclusiveness. The question is whether people are actually interested in either. The distance between political ideologies is extreme and in many camps, unity is seen as a compromise that favors the evil of the other side and inclusiveness is pretty much the same as fraternizing with the enemy. The strength of the #Resist movement is an example of the challenges to finding or creating a global sense of unity around most any topic.
Fashion is not immune from politics and the question designers and labels face now is how much of their personal attitudes and feelings to allow into their work. Under previous circumstances, the conventional wisdom has been to keep the two separate. However, there are some notable exceptions to that rule, the most obvious probably being Dame Vivienne Westwood and her strong stand for environmental causes. Much of the rest of fashion, however, prefers to remain quiet.
#tiedtogether did get an important endorsement last night as all the models walking in the Tommy Hilfiger show on Venice Beach were wearing white bandanas imprinted with #tiedtogether on their wrists. Even the designer had one tied to his belt loop as he made the finale walk. If BoF can convince other designers to incorporate the concept into their shows in a similar fashion, the idea might have a chance of catching on, at least as an accessory idea.
Still, we’ve seen this type of movement before. Just because people wear a bandana, or a plastic bracelet with a certain inscription, or a given set of beads, doesn’t mean that they actually subscribe to the philosophy behind the symbol. Wearing every white bandana in the world has little effect if the people wearing them do not genuinely believe in unity and inclusiveness across the deep chasm of political divide. The white bandana risks becoming just another fashion trend with no real substance behind it.
What’s missing in this movement is an example, someone or something that demonstrates what unity and inclusiveness mean in the fashion world. If we’re talking racial inclusiveness, which has been a problem for fashion shows, then seeing more diversity on the runway would be a good start. If we’re talking about gender inclusiveness, then the trend toward mixed men’s and women’s show is a start, but seeing more transgender models on the runway would be a significant step forward. Size diversity has been a significant issue, but only a handful of designers have done anything on that front. There are options and those options have always been there. The industry has been frequently criticized for not embracing those options before now. Are we to expect that a white bandana can be the thing that makes a difference?
BoF is certainly trying hard to get as many designers, editors, models, and bloggers on board as possible. Just getting industry insiders to understand and sign on to the concept is a herculean effort. While we applaud BoF for taking the initiative in starting this campaign, however, we remain skeptical of any real change. We’ve seen other campaigns for inclusivism before and watched as major designers totally ignored them. We will be watching carefully to see if a white bandana can actually make a difference.