This morning I woke up and was reminded that I follow exactly the right kind of people on Twitter. My 8am timeline was flooded with a butt tonne of totally justified anger. And that much anger, that early in the morning takes a hell of a lot of effort, so my pre-coffee self knew that something must be up. The dozens of tweets I saw were targeted at Topshop and its founded Phillip Green, following an event yesterday that proved yet again that the chain doesn’t actually care all that much about women, despite appearances.
On Friday, Penguin announced a collaboration with Topshop to celebrate the release of Scarlett Curtis’ new book “Feminists Don’t Wear Pink“. There was set to be a pop up shop in the flagship Oxford Circus store which not only sold the book (a collection of essays by inspiring women about what feminism means to them), but other products, with the profits going towards the charity Girl Up. Girl Up is a foundation that supports and empowers women all over the world to help them become leaders for change and gender equality. And yet, despite how undeniably positive those movements are, Penguin soon after tweeted that Topshop had decided to remove the pop up, just 20 minutes after it had been assembled. They stated that, “This book aims to prove that the word ‘feminist’ is accessible to everyone. Today’s events suggest there is still some work to do.”
Photo by Penguin Random House
Listen, we know that Topshop isn’t a feminist company. As I’ve spoken about in numerous other blog posts, its use and abuse of female garment factory workers whilst it simultaneously profits off the sales of “feminist” slogan t-shirts is the most disgusting form of hypocrisy, and it pretty much exemplifies everything that is wrong with fast fashion in 2018. But the fact that Topshop or Sir Green would be so brazen in their denunciation of feminist values is what’s shocking. As Scarlet Curtis points out, Topshop not only survives but thrives through the support of teenage girls. So, to claim that wanting equality for those girls is in some way controversial, aside from making very little business sense, is just extremely sad. I for one used to save up my pocket money to be able to pick up a few items in the Topshop sale. Throughout my teen years I spent more money in that shop than I care to think about. But does Phillip Green care even one ounce about us, the women and young girls that made him the millionaire he is? It certainly doesn’t seem like it.
What makes me most sickened and sad is that a man who clothes an entire nation of teenage girls thinks it’s controversial to fight for the equality of those girls. This is much less about Topshop than it is about powerful men #PinkNotGreen
— Scarlett Curtis (@scarcurtis) October 5, 2018
I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised that the company lacks ethics. As rare as it is to walk into a shop these days and not find a slogan t-shirt shouting something about girl gangs or destroying the patriarchy, it’s even more rare to find a shop selling such t-shirts for any reason aside from profit. We’re not just talking about Topshop here, this is the fashion industry as a whole. As much as I love seeing women wearing their feminist label with pride, being a feminist isn’t achieved through buying an item of clothing. And certainly not one that has been made at the cost of other women.
As a consumer your voice is in your money. If you want to use your money as a vote for equality, don’t give it to companies that further repress women and, as the last 24 hours has proven, don’t care at all about amplifying female voices. Instead, send it in the direction of those independent businesses that are doing good. Trust me, they’re out there if you look hard enough. Give your hard-earned cash to companies that care about people like you and people with less privilege than you, not massive the corporations who simply pretend to when it’s convenient for them.
Inspired by the anger I felt when I found out about this news story today, I thought I would put together another list of incredible and empowering brands to give your feminist funds to. These online shops support women in ways that highstreet brands can’t even come close to: They use fair trade materials, give a proportion of their profits to charities that benefit women, or print clothes by hand and not in sweatshops. In many cases, they do all of the above!
With the tagline “we connect women, from worker to wearer”, Birdsong are an ethical clothing brand that uses no sweatshops and no photoshop. They pay all of their employees at least the London living wage and provide them a range of holistic forms of support.
Founded by breast cancer survivor and all round badass Lauren Mahone, Girl Vs Cancer donate 25% of all of its profits to four different cancer charities: Coppafeel, Treckstock, Future dreams and Look Good, Feel Better.
Adam and Emma created Bloody Nora Pam after the sudden passing of a family member due to sepsis. They use their designs as an opportunity to spread “bold, positive and empowering messages”, whilst also giving 10% of all profits to UK Sepsis Trust.
Ruby Rebellion are dedicated to helping “end the poverty, shame, mental health stigma, gendered language and violence surrounding menstruation.” They are a not for profit organisation, meaning that all money raised from the sales of their t-shirts goes straight towards their positive work. They also use vegan inks and eco-friendly processes.
Wild and Kind: Poster Grl T-Shirt (9)
As their name suggests, Wild and Kind create T-Shirts that create as little harm as possible. They use eco-printed cotton, vegan inks and all of their designs are made in collaboration with artists who are paid fairly.
They say it best themselves: “Mude’s battle is against the censorship, sexualisation and judgement of our natural, nuanced, beautiful bodies.” Not only do they celebrate just how glorious our bodies are by nature, but they are 100% sustainable, ethical and empowering.
The Girl Gang Sustainable Tee (10) was even based on real women’s bodies!
Grl Clb prides itself on its inclusivity. As the brand’s founder Ruth states, “I can’t preach equality and justice and social morality without extending all of that to my actual shirts.” So, she ensures that all of her designs are ethically produced with a sustainable manufacturing process.