Katharine Hamnett Campaigns For Ethical Fashion

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Katharine Hamnett made fashion political.  While fashion statements of the past which re-envisioned the female body could have been said to be political in some sense, there was no doubt of this for Hamnett.  She is best known today for her political T-shirt and ethical business practices.

A graduate of Saint Martin’s School of Art, Hamnett’s career took off in the mid-1980s.  She was known for her oversized T-shirts which sported large block letters with a message.  Her work was featured in music videos such as “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go” and Queen’s “Hammer to Fall”.

While Hamnett was passionate about her fashion business, today, she questions whether it significantly changed political discussion.  She has indicated fears that the slogans had only served a substitute for concrete action.

In the early 1990s, she began lobbying for significant changes to the textile industry.  Citing sweatshop labor conditions and pesticide poisoning in cotton fields, Hamnett terminated her licensing arrangements and moved to more ethical business practices in 2005.

She has also spoken against what she calls racist practices on the part of Fashion Week.  “The catwalks are full of white dogs; cosmetic companies don’t like black models – the racist bitches…Black girls have much better body shapes, and it’s such a shame.  I just think there should be a bit more balance.”

Though she doubts the political viability of her fashion work, she continued her tradition in 2013 creating T-Shirts for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.  The slogans on these two T-Shirts were “EDUCATION NOT TRIDENT” and “NHS NOT TRIDENT”.

Author: Victoria Hewlett

Victoria is a community college student, blogger and freelance writer from the mountains of Northeast Tennessee, USA. She owns and is the sole writer for a website she started in May 2015: ProgressiveMentality.com. She is in the process of completing an Associate’s Degree in Sociology and Public Speaking. On top of her work as a freelancer and student, Victoria performs many leadership roles at her school, including being a Regional Vice President of the international honors society for two-year schools, Phi Theta Kappa. She serves on her student government, and has served as a Representative at the Tennessee Intercollegiate State Legislature. She believes the world is on a route of social change and wishes to work throughout her life to be a part of it. Her first love is writing, however she also hopes to be a leader in the effort for progressive political change in her community.

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