Chanel’s “Feminist” Protest Wasn’t All That Great For Women

You don’t need to be a CNN buff to get it: Between the unrest in the Middle East, police violence in Ferguson, this week’s uprisings in Hong Kong, and New York's recent, massive march for climate change, there are plenty of issues worth protesting. But, when Karl Lagerfeld staged a “feminist protest” earlier today for Chanel’s Paris runway show, it felt, well, a bit twisted.
Held on the faux avenue “Boulevard Chanel No.5” built into the Grand Palais, the march featured Cara Delevingne shouting slogans into her quilted, Chanel-branded megaphone while a model army including Kendall Jenner, Joan Smalls, Edie Campbell, Georgia May Jagger, and Gisele Bundchen marched behind her, waving signs emblazoned with rather tepid political slogans like "Free Freedom" (whatever that means), “Ladies Rights Are More Than Alright” (gee, thanks Karl), and "Make Fashion Not War" (hmm). A lone male model marched under a "He For She" banner in a nod to Emma Watson's Lean In-style CTA for male feminist allies.
Other signs were more fashion-focused, such as the ones reading, "Be Your Own Stylist" and "Tweed is better than tweet.” Then, there was the eyebrow-furrowing “Boys should get pregnant, too.” If Karl was aiming at a sexy, Situationist-style melding of fashion and agitprop, we can't say his model army succeeded. The lukewarm slogans simply didn't say much, while the spectacle of luxuriously clad models stomping to Chaka Khan’s "I'm Every Woman" lent the event the air of an oddly jovial fashion circus more than a statement. Attendees didn't seem to know how to interpret it, either: "Not sure how to feel about [this]," read one of Susie Bubble's Instagram captions.
Of course, the joy of fashion is its ability to take the pulse of the world and transform it into interesting, clever, and intelligent collections. And, in this, Chanel often succeeds with a subversive wink. But, when real-world protests are interpreted as a "trend," rife for runway copying, and urgent issues are reduced to vague, jejune sloganeering, something's off. Like last season's Chanel supermarket runway show, this season presents protest as pure product, the irony of which we suspect Karl is both aware, and presides over with a provocative, Warholian glee. But, that self-awareness doesn't make the event feel less empty, nor leave us less befuddled.
Click ahead to see more Chanel slogans.
1Photo: Via @jlminkoff.
2Photo: Via @margaret__zhang.
3Photo: Via @theagg.
4Photo: Via @chungalexa.
5Photo: Via @janekeltnerdev.
6Photo: Via @manrepeller.
7Photo: Via @chungalexa.

More from Designers

R29 Original Series