Fashion’s feminist voice

This Women’s day, I got thinking about fashion’s role in representing the real, evolved women of today, the ever-changing definition of womanhood and also sending out the right message in a scenario where one often sees mere lip service being paid to women’s causes. Which brings us to the question – who’s today’s woman? Is she a multi-tasker, running businesses and a household? Is she a parliamentarian with her pulse firmly on women’s issues? Is she a gypsy with a mind of her own, who lives life on her terms and refuses to be dominated by a patriarchal system? Perhaps she’s all of it and much more. Fashion has always represented powerful women and the respect they command in the ever changing socio-political scenario. If Yves Saint Laurent gave women the Le Smoking in the 70s, which was like an armour of rebellion, India always had the sari – the most powerful garment which represents style with attitude. Today’s evolved Indian woman wears sari with a pair of trousers or denims or brings out her equestrian or biker side by pairing it with a masculine blazer or warrior jacket. Sari’s fusion with elements like a pair of breeches or a sari worn with a mannish shirt attests to the fact that women have come a long way not just in terms of their stature in society but also in their style transition. It’s no longer about a chiffon sari with pearls – today’s women, who juggle so many different roles – mother, entrepreneur, daughter, wife – have a closet which is a synonym of power, practicality and ease. Nixing the style cliches, over the years, today’s fashion savvy women have a strong sense of personal style. It could be artfully androgynous or street-inspired or plain Goth reflecting a sub-culture.

I have been following the Fall Winter 2016 collection images pouring in from Milan and Paris runways and some of these thought-provoking clothes reflect the current state of my mind. What is a women’s role in a scenario where economy is weak? How is society coping with the unfortunate attacks on women and the girl child across the board? Fashion has always been a lucid chronicler of the changing mores – Prada being a case in point. The Italian brand recently referenced a vagabond woman, who’s embraced the on-going wave of retro-eclectisicm with great gusto and who’s on a world trip. She dons a sailer hat, a cape jacket and stationary accessories where she collates her trip experiences. The overall impression which the show conveyed so artfully was of a strong-willed, bohemian fuelled by an insatiable wanderlust.

Last season, Paris Fashion Week’s most talked-about show was of designer Rick Owens which saw models carrying each other on their backs reflecting how women are powerful and give birth to another human being. Also conveying the pain women go through during the process of giving birth.

This wave of tough femininity shows that today’s women have broken the cocoons of ‘what’s expected of them’ and ‘what they’re supposed to do’. They are taking key decisions in running of the country, fighting wars and also playing a vital role in science and technology arenas. Today’s Indian girl don’t really sit around braiding her hair, waiting for the perfect Prince Charming to complete her. She fights it out in the big bad world and creates her own fairy-tale.