Chanel Stages a 'Feminist' Protest in the Name of Fashion

Lauren Tuck
·News Editor

Photos Getty Images

Just months after Stepford wives and supermarkets inspired Karl Lagerfeld, the designer drew on a decidedly different theme for Chanel’s Spring/Summer 2015 Paris Fashion Week show. On Tuesday, models wearing bright tweed suit separates, army-green ensembles, and schoolgirl-uniform-like outfits marched onto the Boulevard Chanel, a city street created inside the Grand Palais. The wearable collection — models mostly sported comfortable cotton clothes and knits accessorized with flats, sneakers, and cross-body bags — came out on Cara Delevingne, Charlotte Free, Caroline de Maigret, Georgia May Jagger, Kendall Jenner, Joan Smalls, Lindsey Wixson, Gisele Bündchen, and others. But at the end of the presentation, instead of the typical finale, the women took to the constructed street and staged a feminist protest. 

Chanel Feminist Protest
Chanel Feminist Protest

Carrying picket signs with such messages as “Ladies First,” “Be Your Own Stylists,” “History Is Her Story,” “Women’s Rights Are More than Alright,” “We Can Match the Machos,” “Boys Should Get Pregnant Too,” “Be Different,” “Make Fashion Not War,” “Feminism Not Masochism,” the models also screamed into Chanel-quilted megaphones chanting similar phrases. Fittingly, the Pet Shop Boys’ anthem “It’s Alright” and “I’m Every Woman” by Chaka Khan blasted out in the background throughout the show.  

One particular sign, which read “He for She,” was an obvious nod to Emma Watson’s recent speech on feminism and gender at the United Nations to launch the gender-equality campaign. Another poster, reading “Free Freedom," seemed like a less-evident gesture toward the “Free the Nipple” campaign, which the demonstration’s ringleader, Delevingne, has openly supported in the past.

Lindsay Wixson Chanel
Lindsay Wixson Chanel

Lagerfeld’s cultural references for his recent collections span the 1960s, from suburban housewives wearing their Sunday best just to pick up milk and groceries to the bra-burning women’s rights movement later in the decade. But the rainbow-bright prints and colorful embellishments gave the collection its modern update. 

While Lagerfeld certainly put on a feminist-themed display, he’s definitely not one, based on his past actions. The designer has often been quoted criticizing women’s bodies and looks. He has repeatedly chastised Adele for her weight — one time saying the singer was “a little too fat” — and he even said of Pippa Middleton, “I don’t like the sister’s face. She should only show her back.” 

Instead of looking to Lagerfeld as a third-wave feminist leader, consider his muses such as Gloria Steinem (sunglasses on the runway are very similar to the ones the icon famously wore) and Germaine Greer (bellbottoms and overalls), as well as the countless women who stood behind those leaders. As for 21st-century influences, Emma Watson is leading the way — and maybe even Cara Delevingne.