BY SUJATA ASSOMULL
New Delhi, (IANSlife) Right now a T-shirt is trending across India. As Rhea Chakraborty arrived for the 3rd day of questioning at the Narcotics Control Bureau she wore a T-shirt that said, “Roses are red, Violets are blue, Let’s smash Patriarchy, Me and you.”
For many weeks the actress who refrained from speaking on the case finally broke her silence and spoke to the media. But more than the interviews, it is her T-shirt that said it all; it made clear her take on the current situation, without her saying a word.
What makes fashion stand out apart from being a garment, is that it has a voice. This T-shirt is reportedly by Mumbai based, The Soul Store– its website says, “The Souled Store was born out of the idea of loving what you do – “following your soul”.
The trend of slogan T-shirts made its comeback at Dior’s Spring/Summer Collection 2017; it marked Maria Grazia Chiuri’s debut for the label and was the first time the legendary French Couture house had appointed a female creative director. The T-shirt read, “We Should All Be Feminists.” With this you knew it was a new era at Dior.
There is nothing new about sending a message out through what you wear, the suffragettes did it, our own freedom fighters did it and Michelle Obama just did it with that V-O-T-E necklace she wore at the 2020 Democratic National Convention. Fashion is about reflecting the times we live in and is also our own personal book cover. Like it or not we are judged by what we weareso why not use that to our advantage.
The T-shirt, being an affordable piece of clothing is a garment that represents democracy; it was first used as a statement in the 1960sea time when fashion spoke about the need for a more egalitarian society. And again in the 1980s, the slogan T-shirt came to the forefront of fashion-(and politics) when Katharine Hamnett (her eponymous label was one the first to address issues of ethical fashion) made T-shirts that read “Choose Life” and “Vote Tactically”. When the designer met British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, she wore a black and white T-shirt with “58% Don’t Want Pershing” written in black and white. Her message was simpleethat T-shirt is now part of collections in museums. It is now part of fashion history.
As we opened our Instagram the morning after Rhea’s arrest, our feeds were flooded with pictures of that T-shirte from her own fraternity Sonam Kapoor and Farhan Akhtar, fashion stylists Tanya Ghavri and Shaleena Nathani, all with the hashtag #justiceforRhea.
She may have been arrested but the court of public opinion is with here fighting for her.
Using fashion as a secret weapon is something women of style and substance have been doing for centuries. In recent times fashion has been using its voice more and more to talk about political and social issues. Consumers are happy to see fashion do this, they are happy to be able to express their own feelings with their material consumption. It makes for a good change from the conspicuous consumption which dominated the last decade.
Rhea’s T-shirt speaks of so many things it makes both a fashion and political statement and its Instagram friendly font ensures that her words are heard without the need of a press conference.
Get ready for a new round of slogan T-shirts to start making statements that need to be heard. We are living in very turbulent timese how better for fashion to have its say then through a slogan T-shirt?
(The writer Sujata Assomull is an IANSlife columnist. Assomull is the author “100 Iconic Bollywood Costumes” and was the Founding Editor In Chief of Harper’s Bazaar, India)