CREDIT: COURTESY OF CATHERINE QUIN
How should fashion respond to the #metoo and Time’s Up movements? It’s a question which gripped anyone trying to analyse awards season style, the fashion month catwalks and, more recently, the Cannes red carpet. Was there any ‘right’ way to do that black dress code at the Golden Globes? Was modest suiting too resigned or fabulously empowered? Was a bum-skimming mini dress bad taste or brilliantly defiant?
At the shows in February, some designers tapped into the zeitgeist with protective collections; Miuccia Prada said that she created technical, fluoro looks “for the strength of women going out in the violence.” She added that her “dream [is] for women to be able to go out in the street and not be afraid. I wanted to have the freedom exaggerated.” Michael Kors just loved the black dresses he’d seen and paid tribute with a series of his own.
Meanwhile, Jennifer Lawrence became the heroine of the school of thought that anything goes when she defended her decision to wear a thigh-split, decolletage-baring Versace dress to a February photo call for her film Red Sparrow.
“This is sexist, this is ridiculous, this is not feminism,” she wrote in a Facebook post. “Over- reacting about everything someone says or does, creating controversy over silly innocuous things such as what I choose to wear or not wear, is not moving us forward. It’s creating silly distractions from real issues. Get a grip people. Everything you see me wear is my choice.”
Designer Catherine Quin is now joining the debate with her latest project, Women of Purpose. Renowned for her quietly sophisticated and resolutely minimalist designs, Quin has recruited a cast of women from the fields of acting, charity, modelling, architecture and more to wear her latest collection in a bid to offer an alternative series of role models “as women break down barriers in the light of the #metoo movement”. They include actress Frieda Pinto, architect Zoe Chan Eayrs, playwright Polly Stenham and Zimbabwean model and women’s rights campaigner Nyasha Matonhodze.
“My intention has always been to allow a woman’s character to shine through, and her clothes not necessarily being the first thing that you notice,” says Quin of her personal response to the questioning which has taken place of late. “I feel it has come to a point where these influencers and celebrities who are celebrities for celebrity’s sake have saturated our culture and I find it really demoralising that women are being reduced in that way,” she adds. “The women I’ve worked with for Women of Purpose are my version of an It girl.” She was also keen to represent a range of ages in the project, to get away from “the idealisation of youth” and celebrate “the wisdom of women who are older.”
Another woman who features in Quin’s series is Brita Fernandez Schmidt, the executive director of Women for Women International UK. Quin will be donating 25% of the profits from the collection to the charity, which helps women affected by conflict around the world. “Fashion is not life or death, but working with Women for Women puts the money where my mouth is,” says Quin.
Quin’s clothes are not always demure, exactly- bare shoulders, backless details and subtle splits feature throughout the collection- but she intends that “it’s about the experience of wearing them, they’re not restrictive. It’s less ostentatious, but how do I feel wearing it?” If the answer is ‘great’ then surely that’s an ideal measure of how to dress now.