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An article by Suzy Brooks

2018 has seen the 100-year anniversary of the suffragette movement which secured votes for women in the UK. But this milestone didn’t just have a huge historic impact, it also changed our sense of style.

On the anniversary, students dressed in period garments holding placards expressing their views, which seemed a fitting way of marking a moment in history when women in unity made their voices heard.

Political campaigners associated with human rights, women’s rights, immigration, religion, disabilities, LGBTQ+, and campaigns such as Make Our Voices Heard, Equality in Pay, No Means No, were all in attendance. Overall, the anniversary celebrations resonated with a desire for equality, justice, peace and the empowerment of women. No restrictions on our rights to do, express and make ourselves heard.

At the beginning of this year there was another great example of women’s empowerment as we descended in our thousands on the capital for the second Women’s March London. This event was echoed around the world as campaigners took a stand for women in cities across the United States, Canada, Japan and Italy to name a few. Women took to the streets to voice concerns about the US president Donald Trump accompanied by their sisters in solidarity: friends, family, men and children alike. 300,000 people turned out in Los Angeles, and London’s Trafalgar square overflowed with protesters in partnership with the likes of Amnesty International, Green Peace, Women in Leadership and a long list of other organisations which offered their support.

Now you may ask, how does this tie in to fashion? Well, without the freedom of choice, and the ‘right’ to freedom of choice, we would be living a completely different life to the one we’re accustomed to today. Can you imagine what women might have to wear if they had not been given the right to vote? Thankfully, because of people like Emmeline Pankhurst, we have a choice! The expression of self – that personal signature which is as individual as we are – is something we can now take for granted thanks to the women who have fought fiercely for our rights, such as the leaders of the suffragette movement.

 

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Picture 1 - The Suffragettes representation at Women’s March London and pictures from the Imperial War Museum.

Six days following the Women’s March London, where voices were heard, led me to the Imperial War Museum to visit the Holocaust Exhibition. The power of words was chosen as this year’s theme by the organisers. Six million Jews lost their lives in the genocide under Adolf Hitler’s rule of Nazi Germany. Shoes, Striped Pyjamas and hair featured heavily for all the wrong reasons but the heroism of Sophia Magdalena Scholl. A student activist and member of the “White Rose”, an anti-Nazi, non-violent political group, showed another side of the holocaust, where individuals took a stand, made a difference. It is in tribute to these women, that this blog is dedicated. I honour their courage, dignity, stand, that has allowed us the freedom of choice we sometimes take for granted.

My choices for the Lewisham and Southwark Fashion Blog, was based on the theme of freedom of choice and these are the three candidates I put forward.

 

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Picture 2 - Brianna Cameron.

This student caught my eye with her personal take on fashion. Brianna Cameron, an Access to Law student, finds inspiration from Alexa Chan. Brianna is certainly diverse and showed a new take of the use of chains. Empowering her look with a single link, a silver faux ring nose which she teams with fierce silver inner eye highlighter is impactful and strong. It is her signature look, that made me reaffirm, how far we have come in female empowerment. Brianna wants to read law at university later this year and I have no doubt she will succeed.

Second on the fashion radar, representing the men who support and assist many to achieve their goals, this blogs man of the week, goes to Morgan Thomas. A 23-year-old Access to Law student, Morgan aspires to read law and go forward in a legal aid forum related to assisting with homelessness. Morgan’s take on fashion is streetwear led with a skateboarding feel. He is an avid skateboarder and has been boarding since the age of 12. He is inspired by Chris Cole an American skateboarder for the brand Zero. It was the Japanese influenced blossom trainers matched with a Japanese feel bomber jacket that caught my eye. It showed that even the strong can show a delicate, feminine side.

 

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Picture 3 – Morgan Thomas.

My final candidate caught my eye with her vibrant and cheerful jumper. The colleges generally opt for sombre, dark, moody tones and with the dark early evenings of January, it was nice to have a ray of vibrancy, which Catarina Dias Silva represented in abundance. Catarina is a Fashion and Textiles student and is influenced by the artist Mark Rothko, as his paintings were the first she saw upon her move to London from Portugal. She is in her first year of fashion at the college but hopes after her second year to study fashion at the University of Arts London.

 

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Picture 4 – Catarina Dias Silva

We take many things for granted, but it is good to understand and learn about the people who made a difference in our everyday lives that we may not even recognise.

Although, I have featured a sombre topic for my first ever blog, I wanted to depict that there are many things that unite us which we do not necessarily recognise. Everybody has a story. Sometimes it is not always in the words that we recognise it. It can be expressed in our work, our circle of friends and even in our fashion. Even in the darkest times, there is always hope. They say that you cannot have a rainbow without rain. I myself prefer this quote from Gilbert Baker that I will leave you with; “The rainbow flag is a symbol of freedom and liberation that we made for ourselves.” - Gilbert Baker. My take on this is that, not only should we stand for freedom, liberty, making our own rainbow, we should try and add something wonderful to other people’s lives, even if it is simply by wearing something beautiful.

Written and photographed by Suzy Brooks. 30/01/2018.