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Feminism and the fashion industry

Today, guest contributor Kim Gerlach writes about feminism in the fashion industry. In her day job, she advises the sustainable fashion community through her company sun and rise.

The first article in this seriestakes a look at what feminism and fashion have in common at a fundamental level. But how do things look inside the fashion industry specifically? Kim shares her insight about areas where we’ve already come a long way and can view the future in a positive light.

Everything in fashion that feminism has already changed

We’ve come a long way since pantsuits and purple overalls! Authentic feminism is slowly but surely making its way into the fashion world. Now there are unisex, size-inclusive, and function-focused fashion houses that are forward-thinking. Our society is becoming more sensitized to inclusion; brands are deliberately producing larger sizes or petite collections that allow people who don’t conform to standard measurements to wear fair clothing. Many fair fashion labels are popping up, both throughout Germany and abroad, that produce ethically, and whose designs also appeal to marginalized sections of the population.

Certifications like those issued by the FairWear Foundation are based on fair wages and the fair treatment of all producing suppliers. And our advertising is more diverse than ever. 2019 marked the most diverse year on the major fashion runways. The Runway Diversity Report looks at skin color and identity, how many plus size models were booked, the number of all transgender and non-binary models, and age.

Wildling Minimalschuh FeminismusKim getting ready for a Fashion Revolution demonstration © Constanze Neubert

Many individuals are daring to call fashion companies into question. Together with Fashion Revolution's global movement, the question of #whomademyclothes? is continually being raised. One reason behind this is that in 2013, more than 1,000 people lost their lives and several thousand others were injured in a factory collapse in Bangladesh. To mark the anniversary of the Rana Plaza collapse in 2013, the campaign is calling on fashion companies to consider their supply chain and take responsibility for seamstresses and producers.

Wildling, too, has an innate feminist bent. While both fair wages and fair production conditions are implemented in the supply chain, the products themselves are gender-neutral. The shoes offer freedom for the feet – far removed from pointy high heels!
Even in its imagery and its overall public-facing presence, Wilding avoids resorting to typical clichés, instead embracing inclusivity and continually evolving. The social enterprise has a workforce composed of over 70% women, with 40% at the management level.

Wildling Minmalschuh Kim Gerlach

Kim at Copenhagen Fashion Week in 2018. Legroom and practical pockets included © Constanze Beatrice

Thanks to feminism in fashion, clothing isn’t so much a reflection of social class and the degree to which an individual self-identifies as feminine, but more an expression of one’s authentic self, because nowadays everyone can wear whatever they want.

“Femininity, being feminine, and female identification are thus separate from each other. And I've long since stopped forgoing pockets for my feminine dresses!”
Kim Gerlach


* In this article, the two-gender system was used deliberately. Nonetheless, it should be noted that the 21st century recognizes more than two genders, and thus it is not a male/female polarity but rather a spectrum of genders.


Thank you for this exciting insight into the development of the fashion industry, dear Kim!


Cover Image: © Constanze Neubert


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