Chanel Mock Protests... What Exactly?

Credits: Photo - Anonymous, Styling - Sarah G. Schmidt, Location - 12 Street NW


Karl, Karl, Karl. This past week Karl Lagerfeld and the team at Chanel created a scene for the Spring Summer 2015 presentation at Paris Fashion Week. The collection was presented on “Boulevard Chanel” – an indoor constructed Parisian street scape. It reminded me a tiny bit of the movie A Night at the Roxbury where the club interior looks like it’s outside. Although it is not a direct comparison, tact wise or aesthetically, it does feel like the “outside on the inside” vibe.

While the collection was fantastic, totally wearable and uber desirable, I was drawn more to the spectacle of it all. As part of the finale, models conducted a mock protest while carrying signs in both English and French. Below are some examples of the phrases on the signs:

  • Free freedom
  • Ladies first
  • Be different
  • Votez pours vous (Vote for you)
  • Tweed is better than tweet
  • Be your own stylist
  • Make fashion not war
  • Boys should get pregnant too
  • History is her story
  • Women's rights are more than alright

While some are harmless, “be different” and “votez pour vous,” for example, there are some that I feel may have been a glorification or exploitation of current heated topics. I see it potentially as leveraging an issue to make it trend for the sole purpose of publicity. In other words, be sure to make a scene but don’t worry about sending mixed messages.  

I challenged myself by asking, “Is bringing attention to any issue, regardless of how or why, potentially helpful to the cause? Can that be enough for me to get behind?” Honestly, I didn’t know how I felt. I found partial resolution in the idea that, if nothing else, it gets people talking. For me, though? I needed to contemplate further.

In case you haven’t gathered, I am a feminist. There is a current problem with labeling yourself this way due to the constant misuse of the word “feminist.” I think it’s worth the effort to remind each of us the true meaning. To clear up any confusion, a feminist defined on dictionary.com is a person who:

advocates social, political, legal, and economic rights for women equal to those of men.

The definition does not read, “women before men.” Or if it does, could you send that source to me? 

Let’s stop making it a Gender A vs. Gender B discussion. It’s really about all genders being equal.

Should you want a catchier way to get feminism down, Beyonce, with the renowned Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, can help you. Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche’s TedTalk is here (Beyonce sampled from her starting at the 13:00 mark of her speech, should you be curious.) 

Or take the following two-part test succinctly laid out by Caitlin Moran in her book How To Be A Woman: 

“But, of course, you might be asking yourself, 'Am I a feminist? I might not be. I don't know! I still don't know what it is! I'm too knackered and confused to work it out. That curtain pole really still isn't up! I don't have time to work out if I am a women's libber! There seems to be a lot to it. WHAT DOES IT MEAN?' I understand.

So here is the quick way of working out if you're a feminist. Put your hand in your pants.

  1. Do you have a vagina? and
  2. Do you want to be in charge of it?

If you said 'yes' to both, then congratulations! You're a feminist.”  

Finally, a third, less abrasive take on the issue of gender equality is via the lovely Emma Watson. As a UN Women Global Goodwill Ambassador, she recently spoke at the HeForShe Special Event at United Nations. During her speech she said,

“Both men and women should feel free to be senstitve. Both men and women should feel free to be strong. It is time that we all see gender as a spectrum, instead of two sets of opposing ideals. We should stop defining each other by what we are not, and start defining ourselves by who we are.”

Back to Chanel, I argue the phrases, “Ladies first,” and “Boys should get pregnant too,” cancel out the potential positive effect of the promotion of the other equality messages. To me, it’s as if part of the protest is saying, “Women are entitled to get back at men,” rather than, “Women are equal to men.” I will urge that the distinction is worth the effort.

I, too, considered it was not so much about the message as it was about people putting any message out there. A bunch of stuff that is important to a bunch of different people. A way of throwing it out there. While I crave focus and alignment, maybe I’m asking too much? Then, my gut calls bullshit. Say what you mean to say. It is especially true if you are a fashion house as prolific as Chanel. Be sure of your message.

What I do appreciate is Chanel is taking a leadership role in reimagining what a collection's presentation can be. It can be anything. Certainly with the clout of the brand and society’s voracious appetite for it, the audience receiving those messages was huge in numbers. To reference my earlier point, it’s at least getting us talking!

What do you think about Chanel’s provocative approach?