Is There Such a Thing as Feminist Fashion?

Israeli fashion house Comme Il Faut used 'real women' on the catwalk. Is this what we came for?

Many questions might occur to thinking folks who come to see a fashion show. These are the people to whom Comme Il Faut’s designers are trying to appeal. The title of their show for Tel Aviv Fashion Week was “Equal/Unequal” and the text that awaited us on our seats talked about “feminine” emotions, like compassion, caring and love, that don’t get enough respect. These emotions, according to the Israeli fashion house, are not culturally or socially esteemed, and so bring minimal minuscule financial reward. Comme Il Faut, therefore, calls for “recognition of the so-called feminine emotions and wants to draw attention to society’s exploitation of them.” A petition can’t be far behind.

Is there such a thing as feminist or non-feminist fashion? Can a written explanation help make fashion feminist? There must be some gender studies seminar on this subject taking place somewhere. But for now what we have here is feminist discourse about fashion, and an attempt to present fashion in a feminist way, at least in this company’s view.

Be that as it may, this week Comme Il Faut chose to use “real women” in its show – that is, women who are not models, who aren’t 17 years old, who weigh more than 45 kilos and are not 180 centimeters tall. How can one object to that? It’s not that we object, it’s just that this isn’t what we came here for.

We came for the glam and the glitter. We came for everything that’s spectacular and beyond our reality. The idea is simple: With a little imagination we too can see ourselves as part of the cast of “Absolutely Fabulous,” and that’s why we’re here – we’re here to play. On the other hand, we’re not about to begrudge extra agendas. We’re fine with that, because, in any case, our imagination vanquishes agendas.

Everything that is good about the fashion world is noticeable already in the press room. Only in the realm of fashion, it seems, could you have a press room where it’s okay to smoke, and no one raises their hands in horror at you and tells you to quit the disgusting habit. It’s impossible not to feel a certain affection for the self-destructive and decadent tendencies of the world of fashion – particularly in a country that hardly permits a person to walk on the edge (unless you’re a soldier at the border).

Amid the decadence (which was rather limited, to be honest; there was no cocaine in evidence, nor any champagne, at the show, so maybe it was just imagined decadence), the ultra-decadent idea of feminist texts whose purpose is to sell clothes certainly fit in. Go ahead, why not? We’re in a good mood.
As soon as the event began, it was obvious that even burlap sacks would look great on the skinny, expressionless models. By the way, we prefer them that way – expressionless.

Ingratiating behavior by people in the public domain has been reaching unbearable proportions lately. On the way to the show, for instance, the Galgalatz deejay giving the traffic report nearly ruined our fantasy of a world of the beautiful and cool, when she addressed listeners in that all-Israeli way: “Take it slow out there, guys.” We could just about feel her patting us on the shoulder. Yet another friend we never wanted.

American writer Cormac McCarthy made it big with his book “No Country for Old Men.” The fashion world is no country for the ugly, and so we did well to insist on using our imagination. Everybody looked beautiful to us, and so did the clothes, even the white kerchiefs on the models’ heads. There was a reason for those kerchiefs, they were supposed to represent something, but we didn’t care what they represented. And we were a little sorry that the fashion world felt a need to explain.

Gil Cohen-Magen
Comme Il Faut. Photo by Gil Cohen-Magen