By Josie Gudgeon
Do you feel empowered when you get dressed in the morning? The whole reason I started this journey was because of the power that clothing has. It changes every perception we have on a person; be it a man dressed in a suit, be it a clown character on a stage, or even just a beggar on the streets. We may not mean to, or even acknowledge we are doing it. Every person is judged as they portray a persona and can give off emotion due to what they are wearing.
Many use the term ’empowerment’ without fully understanding the meaning. Empowerment is the authority or power given to someone to do something and in turn becoming more confident in their life and claiming their rights. Empowerment can challenge assumptions about the way things are done.
Personally I feel that empowerment within the fashion industry is so important due to our own self-confidence and comfort within how we are dressed. No matter what we decide to wear, even if we have chosen to put our joggers on and have a relaxed day, you should feel empowered in the comfort of the clothing you are wearing and showing off a relaxed persona that day. But for me, empowerment of clothing does not just stop at the aesthetic of a product or our overall appearance. For me, empowerment of the fashion we buy goes much greater to the manufacturing of the product. I believe to be empowered by what I am wearing. I need to know that a product has come from an empowering background. Therefore, I can wear my fashion and my style with pride.
Topshop, one of our leading UK brands is no stranger to allegations of labour abuse, unfair wages and poor working conditions. Topshop launched a collaboration with Beyoncé named “Ivy Park collection” aimed to support and inspire women. Topshop claims the collection was “empowering women through sport”. Meanwhile, the MAS holding factory expected young women seamstresses to make the collection’s garments while earning just £4.30 a day. This meant they earned 44p an hour, while one pair of Beyoncé’s leggings cost £100. The seamstresses at the factory where barely affording enough money to pay for their bills. But let’s not just shame Topshop, there many more high-street retails out there that are guilty of similar things.
However, there are plenty of companies that do promote the perfect example of self-empowerment within what we wear. Something Wicked is a luxury lingerie brand that focuses on women’s empowerment. They show that beautiful lingerie is not just something to be worn purely for pleasing a partner, but in fact, should be about taking control of your sexuality and wearing garments that make you feel good about yourself. They are a proud brand that’s made by women for women. Talking to Steff Magrath the Managing Director of Something Wicked she highlighted the fact; you may be able to go to any high-street store and buy a t-shirt that says “girl power”, however, if the women who made it are not treated fairly, then is it really empowering?
Unlike many brands, Something Wicked does not mass produces any of their products. At Something Wicked the empowerment message is evident all the way through the production process. Their garments are both design and handmade in their studio in Yorkshire by a small team of their talented seamstresses. All of their luxury lingerie and accessories are carefully handmade to order which in turn means that Something Wicked has no stockpiling, subsequently having no product wastage. This makes Something Wicked a highly sustainable and ethical brand, with them not creating waste products for landfill as a result of mass production.
In turn, this creates a happier working ethos with the staff members at Something Wicked having a very tight friendship. Enjoying a chilled working environment, consisting of friendly chatting through the day breaks whenever felt necessary, and having the radio playing in the background creates a nice atmosphere. Now I do not believe anyone working in the MAS holding factories has these pleasant working conditions.
So, do you really feel empowered wearing a garment knowing the seamstresses who made it were pushed to their limits, mass-producing stock for high street shops; A high percentage of which will be thrown into landfills and increase the impact on our environment. These seamstresses barely earn enough money to live off and would have to save for over a month just to buy one of the items of which they make thousands of every day.
Something Wicked not only focuses on the ethos for staff members and their talented seamstress’s craftsmanship in the garments. But talking to Steff Magrath I found out that the company also truly believes that “to feel as sensational as you look all of their products should be carefully handmade from the highest quality material. Using Japanese plonge leather which is ethically sourced.” Steff also went on to tell us how leather at Something Wicked is there leading Fabric as most of their clients find their leather highly empowering to wear. Something Wicked prides themselves on ensuring all of their products are gift wrapped in luxury boxes that they source from a UK British packaging company. This guarantees that customers feel remarkable and empowered from the moment they receive the parcel.
Something Wicked’s motto for their brand really outlines my beliefs and my feelings towards empowerment within the fashion industry. This reflects how talented workmanship with a happy ethos creates a more empowering product.