How Did Fashion Change in 2015?

Fashion was changed by social justice, and it also showed the world a thing or two.Hint: things are getting more inclusive.

Social media isn’t reality. Trans visibility. Body positivity. Cultural appropriation. Again and again, fashion media headlines were inundated with commentary on these topics in 2015. Here at Couturesque, we devoted much of our time to such worthy discussions, whether it was body shaming on Instagram, or cultural appropriation at music festivals. In the recent days, editors have tried to sum up the year in fashion under various labels relating to these sorts of controversies; both gender identity and body image have been named the biggest topics of the year, respectively. But to suggest that 2015 was a single-issue year is missing the point; moreover, to suggest that these issues are dissimilar is off-base entirely. 2015 may seem like it was a pivotal moment for a vast number of different issues, but the more I research, the more clear the intersections become – maybe 2015 wasn’t a tipping point for social justice within fashion, but for fashion within social justice.

Let’s start with the popular idea that gender identity had a big year in the fashion industry. Definitely true. Annie Leibovitz’s portrait of Caitlyn Jenner on the cover of Vanity Fair broke the Internet and gained support from a heaping of fashion glossies. Andreja Pejic booked Makeup Forever and spoke out about her transition with i-D, Love, Vogue, and Harper’s Bazaar. Designers like Rick Owens and J.W. Anderson blurred the lines of binary dressing further than ever, and Selfridges launched a 3-floor gender neutral space on Oxford Street. This isn’t to say that non-binary individuals and fashion have been seamlessly and completely integrated yet, but it was a topic that seemed to garner wide support from the industry this year. The significance of the close relationship between gender identity and fashion is crucial; firstly, trans visibility in the modelling industry works to dismantle binary beauty standards and spur empowerment towards consumers who don’t relate to cis-gendered beauty icons. Secondly, through initiatives such as those Selfridges, fashion is recognizing the legitimate needs of non-cisgendered individuals and leading the way in providing them with much needed services. Finally, what is fashion, if not about identity in the first place? Fashion’s rising recognition of transpeople, whose identities have been downplayed for centuries, is often an empowering and reassuring component in their story. As such, not only did gender come to the forefront of the fashion industry, but movements in fashion propelled it to the forefront of global conversation on an even broader level.

Towards the end of the year, the dialogue took a similarly frenzied tone when Aussie Instagram model Essena O’Neill called for an end to social media and went off the grid. Initial responses lauded Essena for her authenticity, for her self-awareness, for sparking a much-needed conversation that we’d all been putting off having with ourselves (am I really spending too much time picking a VSCO filter, when I could be having a real conversation?) I think much of it was fair, and as we’ve commented before, the perfectly curated- and heavily, heavily edited - feeds of glamorous fashion bloggers are often triggers for jealousy and self-loathing amongst their impressionable followers (more on that here). But after the initial wave of unsighted praise for Essena, others pointed out the shallowness of her claims. I’ll put the jist of the criticism quite bluntly: if she used her influence over 500,000+ followers to manipulate her self-image and gain money and fame, then later regretted it, is that not the fault of her own indiscretion? How about the host of body positive models, intersectional feminists, and bold imagemakers who used Instagram this year to call out censorship of the female body and take on fatphobia? Or those who have harnessed the democratic nature of social media to make thoughtful commentary on cultural appropriation? (Noteworthy: Amandla Stenberg). In 2015, brands continued to cast models from the feeds of artists to everyday people, Gigi Hadid called out her bodyshamers, and Lucky Blue Smith became one of the first male models to reach mainstream supermodel status in years. Talk about a movement lead by the people. What’s more is that these struggles were not only democratic in their conception, but their results played out before an audience of millions, educating and inspiring on an unprecedented scale.

It’s often difficult to acknowledge these steps towards an increasingly progressive, inclusive fashion industry, especially when prejudices still run rampant. However, recognizing the critical impact of style and clothing with regards to equity past and present (think flappers, hippies, and revolutionaries), tells us a lot about its power to do good, and how critical it is to continue pushing for greater diversity and ethics in the industry today. The relationship between how we dress and personal identification is huge – throw in the barrage of messages spewed out by brands and bloggers on social media, and you have a case for a medium that wields incredible power. What’s important to remember as we discuss groundbreaking topics like race, gender, and body image, is that fashion and equity don’t have to be mutually exclusive. They’re far more powerful when they work together. That’s what I learned from fashion in 2015. 

WHO: Tia Elisabeth Glista, Editor at Couturesque magazine
WHERE: Toronto
OBSESSED WITH: Red patent boots from Zara that sold out before I could order them on Boxing Day, and now I'm having a meltdown. #sendhelp #andtheboots
CAN BE FOUND AT: @tia.elisabeth

1 comment:

  1. Lol at the bio part. I feel you.


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I founded Couturesque Magazine when I was 15 years old because like many of my peers, I felt ignored and talked down to by all of the other teen fashion publications out there. I figured that at the end of the day, the people who knew the most about my generation, were the people who belonged to it. The fashion industry is becoming increasingly dependent on the creativity of younger voices who challenge the status quo and make us rethink what we wear and why we wear it. And that is exactly what Couturesque set out to celebrate - authenticity, intelligence, originality, and diversity... in other words, what makes Gen-Z tick. Fast-forward to 2016 and we now have a staff of more than a dozen fashion distruptors contributing to our daily content from all around the globe, 100K+ readers following us from Toronto to New York, to London, Copenhagen, Berlin, Tokyo, and Tel Aviv, and a plethora of big-wig industry fans and collaborators. But what matters to us the most is the responsibility that our publication has to make a positive impact in the lives of those who come across it - we stand against retouching our photoshoots and we stand for sharing the beautiful, individual, complex voices of everyone, especially those who feel marginalized by mainstream fashion media. We hope that you love our site as much as we do and that you take the time to follow us (Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Pinterest / Tumblr / Snapchat / YouTube) throughout our journey to make fashion accessible to the powerful young adults of today.

Tia Elisabeth Glista
Editor in Chief