What are Fashion Activism and Its Examples?

What are Fashion Activism and Its Examples?

In recent years, people have become more and more interested in the idea of fashion activism- using clothing as a way to express political or social messages. While it may seem like a new trend, this form of activism has actually been around for centuries. Let's take a look at some examples of fashion activism and how it has been used to make a statement.


The definition of fashion activism

It is a tool to solve social issue

Fashion activism is the practice of using fashion as a medium for social, political, and environmental change. It involves using fashion to raise awareness about issues such as animal rights, human rights, etc and advocate for systemic change.


This can take many forms, such as utilizing fashion shows and campaigns to promote sustainable fashion or boycotting brands that have unethical labor practices. Fashion activists often push for a more ethical fashion industry that prioritizes people and the planet over profit.


It is not just wearing or buying clothes

Fashion activism goes beyond simply wearing clothing with political statements or buying from ethically-minded brands. It involves actively engaging in the fashion system and pushing for systemic change through various means such as boycotts, protests, and creative campaigns. Fashion activists strive to challenge the traditional fashion industry and encourage a shift toward sustainability and social justice.


Fashion activism is not something new

The concept of fashion activism has been increasingly recognized in recent years, with notable fashion activists and organizations leading the charge for change. However, fashion activism is not a new phenomenon; it has roots in political movements such as the anti-sweatshop protests of the 1990s and the 1960s counterculture fashion movements.


Activism in fashion history


Fashion activism can be traced back to the 1960s counterculture movement, where fashion was used as a means of rebellion against mainstream society and expressing political beliefs. The anti-war and civil rights movements influenced clothing choices, with young people wearing garments that displayed their political stance or showed solidarity with marginalized communities.



In the 1990s, fashion activism gained momentum with the rise of the anti-sweatshop movement. Activists demanded transparency and accountability from fashion brands, pushing for improved labor conditions and an end to sweatshop exploitation in garment factories. The success of this movement led to the creation of organizations such as the Fair Labor Association, which works towards upholding ethical labor practices in global supply chains.



Fashion activism has continued to grow in recent years, with a focus on sustainable and ethical fashion as well as intersectional social justice issues. Organizations such as Fashion Revolution and the Council of Fashion Designers of America have spearheaded campaigns for greater sustainability in the industry, while groups like All-Women’s Leadership seek to amplify marginalized voices and address issues such as diversity and inclusivity in the fashion industry.


Fashion items as a symbol to activism

Fashion items serve as powerful symbols for activism. Below are some examples.



In the 19th century, women's clothing was heavily restrictive and constricting. The wearing of bloomers, loose pants that allowed for greater mobility, became a symbol of the women's suffrage movement and their fight for equal rights. Wearing bloomers was a bold statement and defiance against societal norms during this time period. Thus, they became a symbol of feminist activism and the push for women's liberation.


The Mini Skirt

The mini skirt, popularized in the 1960s by fashion designer Mary Quant, became a symbol of women's sexual liberation and defiance against traditional gender norms. Wearing a mini skirt was seen as a bold and rebellious act for women, asserting their right to express their sexuality and pushing back against societal expectations of femininity. As such, it became a symbol of feminist activism during the second-wave feminist movement.


The Slogan T-Shirt

Slogan t-shirts have long been used as a form of self expression and activism. Wearing a shirt with a political message or statement allows individuals to communicate their beliefs and show solidarity with various causes. The popularity of slogan t-shirts in recent years, particularly in regards to feminist and social justice movements, has helped spread awareness and spark important conversations about pressing issues.


The Keffiyeh 

The keffiyeh, a traditional Middle Eastern headdress, has become a symbol of Palestinian solidarity and resistance against Israeli occupation. Wearing the keffiyeh not only displays political beliefs, but also shows support for Palestinian culture and heritage. It has been popularized by activists and public figures such as Che Guevara and Malcolm X, and continues to be worn as a symbol of activism today.


The Che Guevara T-shirt

The Che Guevara T-shirt has become a popular symbol of radical leftist and anti-capitalist activism. The image of the Argentine revolutionary, often portrayed as a symbol of militant rebellion against oppressive governments and systems, has been appropriated and commodified in mainstream fashion. However, some argue that wearing the T-shirt without fully understanding or actively supporting Guevara's actions reduces it to a mere fashion statement, rather than a symbol of activism.


Does activism actually work in fashion industry?

There is no simple answer to this question as the effectiveness of fashion activism depends on various factors such as the specific issue being addressed and the approach taken by activists. However, there have been numerous examples of fashion activism leading to tangible change in the industry.


Detox campaign

One notable example is the Detox campaign launched by Greenpeace in 2011, which called on fashion brands to eliminate hazardous chemicals from their supply chains. After years of pressure and action by fashion activists, more than 100 fashion companies have committed to the Detox pledge and there has been a significant reduction in the use of these harmful chemicals in production.


Accord on Fire and Building Safety Agreement

Fashion activism has also played a role in pushing for improved labor conditions, such as in the case of the 2013 Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh. The tragic incident, which killed over 1,000 garment workers, sparked global outrage and prompted fashion brands to sign the Accord on Fire and Building Safety Agreement. This agreement aims to ensure worker safety through independent inspections and improvements in factory conditions.


Sustainable fashion

Additionally, fashion activism has contributed to increasing awareness and demand for sustainable fashion. The fashion industry has a significant environmental impact, but fashion activists have raised important questions about the industry’s role in addressing climate change and promoting sustainability. This has led to a growing number of fashion brands committing to sustainability initiatives and an increase in consumer interest in ethical fashion choices.


Example of fashion activism

Boycotting fast fashion brands

One example of fashion activism is boycotting fast fashion brands. Fast fashion refers to the trend of quickly producing cheap clothing that is often poorly made and not made ethically or sustainably. Boycotting fast fashion involves refusing to support these companies and choosing to purchase ethically-made clothing instead.


Fast fashion has numerous negative impacts, including exploitation of labor, environmental degradation, and contributing to a culture of overconsumption and waste. By boycotting fast fashion brands, individuals can push for more ethical and sustainable practices in the fashion industry.


This form of fashion activism also involves being an informed consumer and doing research on the companies and brands we support. This includes considering not only the ethics and sustainability of a brand but also its stance on social justice issues such as diversity and inclusivity.


Advocating for systemic change

In addition to boycotting fast fashion brands, fashion activists may also advocate for systemic change within the industry. This can include pushing for greater transparency and accountability from fashion companies, as well as advocating for sustainable production methods and fair labor practices.


Overall, boycotting fast fashion is one way to take action and promote more ethical and sustainable practices in the fashion industry. By making informed choices as consumers and advocating for systemic change, fashion activists can push for more ethical and sustainable fashion industry.


Wearing clothing with political messages or symbols

Wearing clothing with political messages or symbols can also be a form of fashion activism. Political statements on clothing can serve as a visual form of expression and demonstrate solidarity with marginalized communities or specific social justice issues.


This form of fashion activism often involves wearing garments such as t-shirts, sweatshirts, or hats with slogans or symbols related to a specific cause or political movement. It can also involve wearing traditional clothing or symbols associated with a marginalized community, as a form of cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation.


Wearing clothing with political statements can be a form of protest and resistance, allowing individuals to visibly demonstrate their beliefs and values. It can also serve as a conversation starter and provide a way for people to educate others on important social justice issues.


Educating others on fashion's impact on the environment and society

Fashion activism can also involve educating others on the impacts of fashion on the environment and society. This includes raising awareness about the negative effects of fast fashion, such as exploitation of labor and environmental degradation. It also involves promoting sustainable fashion practices, such as buying secondhand clothing or supporting ethical fashion brands.


Educating others on fashion's impact can involve sharing resources and information through word-of-mouth, social media, and events. It can also involve taking direct action, such as organizing fashion swaps or workshops on sustainable fashion practices.


By spreading awareness and educating others about fashion's impact, fashion activists can encourage individuals to make more informed and ethical choices when it comes to fashion consumption. This can ultimately lead to larger systemic change in the fashion industry and a shift towards more sustainable fashion practices.


Upcycling or repurposing old clothing instead of buying new items

Another form of fashion activism involves upcycling or repurposing old clothing instead of buying new items. This reduces waste and supports a more sustainable fashion industry.


Upcycling can involve techniques such as altering, embellishing, or restyling old clothing to give them new life. It can also involve repurposing old clothing or fabric into new fashion items, such as turning an old t-shirt into a tote bag.


Upcycling can be done individually, through DIY projects and alterations, or it can also involve working with fashion designers who specialize in upcycled fashion.


By upcycling and repurposing old clothing, fashion activists can reduce waste and support a more sustainable fashion industry. It also allows individuals to have unique fashion items and be creative with their fashion choices.


Organizing fashion shows or events as a fashion activism

Organizing fashion shows or events can also be a form of fashion activism. These events can be used to showcase and promote sustainable fashion practices, such as upcycled clothing or ethical and fair trade brands. They can also serve as a platform for raising awareness about the negative impacts of fast fashion and promoting education on more sustainable fashion choices.


Fashion shows and events can also provide a space for fashion activists to connect with others and build a community. They can involve workshops, panels, and discussions on sustainable fashion practices and activism in the industry.


By organizing fashion shows and events that promote sustainable fashion practices and education, fashion activists can encourage individuals to make more informed and ethical fashion choices. These events can also serve as a platform for fashion activists to connect and build a community in support of sustainable fashion.



Fashion activism involves using fashion as a tool for raising awareness and promoting social change. Throughout history, there have been numerous examples of fashion activists using their platforms to bring attention to important issues and push for change within the industry.


While it can be difficult to measure the direct impact of fashion activism, many industry leaders and consumers are becoming more aware of the negative impacts of fast fashion and pushing for greater sustainability.


There are many ways to participate in fashion activism, from supporting ethical and sustainable brands to organizing events and raising awareness about important issues. By using our voices and platforms as fashion activists, we can support positive change within the industry.