hen I was 14, in the Nineties, I had a black crop top from Miss Selfridge that had the word ‘Attitude’ emblazoned across it in bright white italics. (I also had one that said ‘Babe’ in glitter but let’s never speak of it). The irony is not lost on me that I was actually a mild-mannered, introspective teenager with approximately zero attitude, but I’m thankful to my mum for buying it and humouring me.
Later that year, I ramped up my naive venture into rebellion by wearing a French Connection ‘FCUK fashion’ T-shirt. I know what you’re thinking: this kid was edgy. But it did feel transgressive to be so tantalisingly close to wearing a swearword out in public. I don’t remember that 1997 campaign sending out any particular message but the simple acronym, penned by an agency Creative Director Trevor Beattie, captured the mood of a generation of teens who wanted to experiment with anarchy (and I enjoyed a wistful moment of nostalgia when the campaign came back for SS16). According to Chief Executive of French Connection, Stephen Marks, that was the goal: ‘As we’re paying homage to the Nineties, this was the right time to bring back the FCUK logo.’
Fashion has always been about self-expression but, in this moment of political upheaval, social unrest and ceaseless change, capturing a mood isn’t enough. We want a message to scream and shout.
Sloganeering was all over the catwalk for AW16, from Alexander Wang to DKNY, and it’s making its presence felt on the high street, too (River Island, Topshop, H&M). The hashtags and captions have leapt from our smartphones and on to our clothes. Just in case you didn’t already know our political affiliation or where we stand on Justin Bieber (we’re looking at you, Vêtements), we’re spelling it out for all the world to see. But it’s not all righteous protest; fashion has a unique way of getting the message across, whether it be playful or poignant, while succinctly capturing a moment, too.
The motivation and sentiment behind fashion slogans have evolved over time and according to the social climate. The Seventies and Eighties saw a rise in bold, provocative activist messaging under the radical eye of British designers such as Katharine Hamnett and Vivienne Westwood. In the Seventies, Westwood and her then partner Malcolm McLaren’s most