D&G: When a fashion statement goes wrong

Tuesday, 17 March 2015
OPINIONFashion may not be the top name on the cultural sector list, but by no means should fashion's influence on the zeitgeist be underestimated. Everywhere you look and turn we are consciously and subconsciously privy to fashion statements, from shop windows on  the high street, to images in magazines, on television, the internet and social media. Advertising, billboards, celebrities - the amount of fashion statements thrown our way every moment of the day seems near on unquantifiable. The persuasive power of a fashion statement, thus, can have profound effects and repercussions.

As a culture platform, fashion has a responsibility

Fashion helps to define and shape popular culture, and the relevant designers of the day have enormous power when it comes to consumer's choices of which products and brands to buy into. After all, we buy into an aesthetic, a lifestyle, an ideology. But the same applies when the industry makes mistakes and consumers respond accordingly. So when models are sent down the runway that are too thin, the world notices and springs into action. The industry takes a dent and the debate of diversity is brought to the fore. Fashion as an industry and a cultural platform has a responsibility of the messages we send out.

So this week when the designers of luxury brand Dolce & Gabbana published in Italy's Panorama magazine that children born by IVF are 'synthetic' and are the equivalent 'chemical babies' we have a fashion statement that has gone awry in the worst sense. Here is a powerful company and its very wealthy designers using their public platform to make gross generalisations. A backlash was imminent, and began with none other than singer Elton John, who has two sons conceived by IVF. Dolce and Gabbana speedily sent out a statement about freedom of expression and we should all agree to disagree, that their view is just as legitimate as anybody else’s. But does that allow them and others in the fashion industry to spread prejudice and discrimination? The world didn't allow John Galliano to get away with his lurid statements about Jews. Surely D&G's generalisations are just as hurtful and negligible.

On a fundamental level, fashion can be a powerful carrier of messages towards shaping personal identity and self esteem. Respecting customer difference and individual need is evermore important in this global economy. As a creative industry fashion should be at the forefront of diversity and Dolce & Gabbana's irrational statements and out-moded views on families, conception and children are both damaging and dehumanising.

The world's consumers have choices: they can choose which brands to buy, which clothes to wear and how to conceive children. Let's see if the backlash against D&G's comments will have an affect on their sales.