Before they’d even opened their mouths, many of the participants at the 2018 Women in the World Summit were making bold statements. From Diane von Furstenberg’s “In Charge”, to Laura Boldrini’s “Je Parle Feministe” and Carrie Grace’s bold “Equals” sign, fierce feminist slogan tees were the stylish order of the day.
“I just want to tell everybody I’m wearing my ‘Equals’ T-shirt because I don’t get to wear it on BBC T.V. every day,” said journalist Carrie Grace, who blew the whistle on the pay gap at the BBC. “So I thought I’d wear it for all of you. I wear it when we’re protesting.”
The gesture drew huge applause, as did Laura Boldrini the previous evening when she explained what was behind her oversized sweatshirt, gifted to her while on an official trip to Canada. “Men in Canada like to be fashionable — and to be fashionable in Canada means to practice feminism,” Boldrini said.
“Slogans work on so many different levels; they’re almost subliminal,” according to pioneering fashion activist Katherine Hamnett. “They’re also a way of people aligning themselves to a cause. They’re tribal. Wearing one is like branding yourself.” The firebrand London designer famously wore a T-shirt to meet the British prime minister Margaret Thatcher in 1984 that declared “58% Don’t Want Pershing” — an anti-nuclear sentiment. Hamnett is credited with launching a trend that went wild in the 1980s and made a strong return in 2016 around the U.S. election cycle, as Vogue observed.
— YMC (@YMCLONDON) February 23, 2016
And Hamnett’s commitment hasn’t diminished in the intervening 30-odd years. “The thing about T-shirts is, they don’t actually achieve anything unless you follow them up with pressure on your elected representative,” she told the Telegraph earlier this year. Her latest designs are printed on the back with the guidelines of how to contact your local rep, including a sample letter. “I think it’s a feminist issue, isn’t it: we’ve only had the vote 100 years — start using it now.”
Watch Italian M.P. Laura Boldrini’s spirited explanation for her bold attire below: