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How Do Social Movements Inspire Designers?


To be fashion-forward in 2023 means something completely different compared to 20 years ago. Fashion designers today are inspired by several things, including social movements — this is now the definition of being fashion-forward. And it makes sense. The environment influences consumers, and fashion designers are no different. This trend has been seen across industries. As designers seek fresh, innovative ideas, they turn to social movements. Since it offers a wealth of creative ideas ready to be explored, on that note, we are going to look at how social movements inspire designers. 

Sunglasses: Where style and social movement intersect

Whether you are looking for a designer sunglasses sale or just need an upgrade to your favourite pair of shades, we can all admit it is one of the best accessories. Sunglasses are more than just an accessory, though. They have transformed into practical items to protect your eyes from the sun. It is also one of the items British designers use to translate their creative ideas into full-fledged icons of the time. 

Streetstyle London by JoJo Iles

One of the more notable instances of trend updates is the revival of retro-style sunglasses. Designers draw inspiration from past eras like the 1950s and 1960s, a particular period in history when women’s rights were non-existent. We saw the rebirth of oversized cat-eye frames, and we love it. These bold and powerful pieces pay homage to the early struggles for women’s rights. 

Empowering Suffragettes: Shaping Women’s Fashion

In the early 20th century, the Suffragette Movement was a significant point in women’s history and rights. It called for equality and for women to be allowed to vote. Thankfully, women can and do many things today, yet so much more work still needs to be done. While society at large still needs to put in the work, the fashion industry uses the movement as inspiration. British designers, in particular, recognise the power behind this movement and use it for various expressions in their creations. Some designers go as far as to incorporate the movement’s colours, purple, white, and green, into their campaigns. Additionally, British designers have embraced tailored silhouettes, especially where elegance and practicality are concerned. 

Punk Style: Unconventional Designs

Punk burst into the English scene in 1976, in large part due to the iconic group the Sex Pistols. Punk is pivotal in British history and culture and is still celebrated as one of the best eras ever. So, what was the point of the punk movement, and how did it tie into fashion? Whether you were watching from the sidelines or living the movement, it was about the cultural identity of anger, disenfranchisement, and rebellion. The anti-establishment movement influenced every aspect of society, from politics to literature, fashion, and even poetry. British designers at the time capitalised on this to bring us some of the most iconic fashion items ever. We saw tartan take centre stage, alongside safety pins and distressed denim — and the same can be said today.  

When we think about how punk influenced and continues to influence popular culture and fashion, we immediately think about the late Vivienne Westwood. She played a vital role in this revolution by creating designs that echoed the movement’s ethos. Additionally, Westwood’s designs pushed the boundaries of conventional style and are still celebrated today.  

The Environment: Sustainable Fashion For All

One of the most significant social movements in the modern era is the impact of our actions on the environment. The fashion industry has been heavily criticised for the vast volumes of fast fashion items that end up in landfills within one season. As a result, fashion houses have committed to driving social change through sustainable fashion. In particular, British designers such as Stella McCartney and Christopher Raeburn responded to the call for environmentally friendly high fashion clothing that leads the way for the rest of the industry. 

Vivienne Westwood at Fashioned From Nature – V&A London by JoJo Iles

McCartney and Raeburn actively use organic cotton, recycled fabrics, and ethically sourced materials in their designs and collections. Both designers are committed to the cause and consistently work with the fashion industry to promote sustainable fashion. By promoting and incorporating eco-friendly fashion, environmentally conscious designers hope to make a mammoth impact on sustainability efforts. One we simply have to support.  

Wrap up

Design by Bath Spa Uni fashion graduate

British designers have long understood that social movements influence everything from popular culture to politics and fashion. Designers from the past used social movements to create fashion designs that sparked conversations on important topics for the time. Today, designers are doing the same. We are hopeful we will see more of this in the future. 

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