When Karl Lagerfeld staged a feminist protest during his Chanel Spring / Summer 2015 show it should have been an amazing everything-comes-together moment. Bearing in mind Coco Chanel’s great stake in exchanging the corset with trousers in a woman’s wardrobe and feminism being on everyone’s lips right now. Instead, the protest left behind a shallow feeling, for some even a sense of mockery or exploitation.
It is great Lagerfeld uses the far reach of his Chanel show to support women’s rights. Instagram-friendly pictures of the protest reached many girls who hopefully regard feminism as something more feminine now and connect to the movement through Chanel’s model Cara Delevingne, who is a role model for many, with an astonishing following of 7.5 million on Instagram.
But: Lagerfeld’s effort to support the cause didn’t go far enough. King Karl, who in the past proved he is able to move mountains, could have used the show to represent the variety of female beauty. He could have collaborated with female artists (women continue to be shockingly under-represented in the art world; only 17% of the artists exhibited in Tate Modern are female). He could have worked together with female writers to create thought-provoking slogans instead of the superficial “Be your own stylist.” He could have used the show as a starting point for a long-term cooperation with feminist activists.
Not doing any of the above his support for feminism remains half hearted. He leaves room for suspicions to treat feminism as a fashionable trend only and to use the movement to sell handbags. Lagerfeld didn’t fulfil what should be required from a designer with his influence.