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Can Fashion Be Possibly Radical?

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Style & Fashion

How wrong can fashion business ideologically be? Easy, very much. Everyone can simply pick up several "sins" that the entire fashion business has committed, such as using exotic fur (animal rights), encouraging diet (Anorexia), and pre-mature modeling. From the view of activism, the fashion industry seems to be a huge "money monster" that will convey you to do all sorts of bad things through its wealth. At the same time, consumers as their prey seem to fall into the money trap so easily, that they might then be simply the victims of the whole "structure".

I doubt this "hunter-prey" relation pretty much whenever I think of it, because of my personal relationship with shopping behaviors. I am very sure with my experience, that shopping can be self-empowering. It brings someone confidence and strength to keep on going with her/his life. In other words, shopping as a behavior can rather be a neutral term than a negative one that comforts the "yet-to-be-fulfilling" part of forthcoming days.

Therefore, if we can think of this question reversely, we will get a whole new thinking on fashion. How can fashion cooperate with activism? To put it even more personally, how can fashion be a different scope when one thinks of her/his life? There is not only a single and correct answer, and it may be as diverse as possible. Here, I would like to present a clothing brand, Trans-Missie, as the creative and convincing approach to use fashion as the political statement. I, as a former intern working there, am very much convinced strong statements can also be carried out without much understanding of difficult theories. Or simply: "You are what you do."

I flew all the way from Taiwan to the Netherlands to obtain my Master’s degree in Gender Studies, or one can call it Feminism. Before this, I had obtained my Bachelor’s degree in Fashion Design back in Taiwan. My new Master’s required me to find an internship somehow and somewhere. I made up my mind to combine my previous study with this internship. Fashion as the answer led me to a flyer of Trans-Missie after which I paid a visit to their studio.

Danaë Kurvers, the chief designer, showed me around. It would just be one normal fashion studio until Danaë showed me her products and said transgender people may drop by to make special orders. In this usage, the term "transgender" refers to people who identify themselves not as the sex they are assigned to. They like to dress as the sex they would like to become, saying FTM (Female-to-Male) and MTF (Male-to-Female) and many others. I was curious about how this community approaches Danaë, and at the same time how she would react to different body figures. In general, Danaë has her ideological really simple. As what I quoted from her website:

"Over the years, Danaë became aware that sex and gender come in just as many flavours as there are people. The human mind and the body that go with it are creative and endlessly varied [...]A fitting outfit plays an important part in this!"

This thought is really carried out into real life, as far as I could see in my internship. In the sense of design, I made several different prototypes for forthcoming products. On the other hand, in the sense of connecting transgender community, I met various transgender people. I did a small research on transsexual surgical conditions in Belgium and England. I even did a small presentation about how to dress yourself up like the other sex based on your current physical conditions. Overall, it was fabulous.

I therefore take Trans-Missie as my possible answer to how I can provide my fashion knowledge back to the field of transgender activism. To put it even simpler, if you have any ability to produce something by your hand, just use it as the platform to speak your thought. In this way, Danaë has presented her thinking successfully through her products. Amazingly enough, these products do not only provide Danaë with a steady income, but also solve the urgent need of the transgender community itself.

My belief is that the audience would react better to handcrafts than arguments, because they do see the "real" outcome, and not just something up in the air. In this sense, I would encourage everyone who’s reading this right now to put some creativity into your life. Even the way you dress yourself could be one inventive production of yours, and of course it is with messages of what you want to say. While those CEOs in big brands constantly use marketing strategies to bring up their revenue, just think of a way to create your own fashion with your own activism. For now, that will be my way of having my life in a little bit fashionable sense. How about trying something now? One Chinese saying works the best here: "Sitting there chatting, works less than getting up doing (something)." (My own translation) So try to think of fashion differently next time, and you will find fashion less material and cold, and more spiritual and fun!

A picture from Danaë’s web shop

(Trans-Missie's official website:



Chi-Chih is a fan of fashion, a student of mother Earth, and a believer of love. He longs for a simpler and better life. Originally from Taiwan, his current issue is to present what he has learned in his life, mixed by Chinese culture, fashion design, and international politics.

Recent Articles by Chi-Chih :

My mother said I must always be intolerant of ignorance but understanding of illiteracy. That some people, unable to go to school, were more educated and more intelligent than college professors.

Mijn moeder zei dat ik altijd intolerant moest zijn naar onwetendheid, maar begrijpend naar analfabetisme. Dat sommige mensen, niet in staat om naar school te gaan, meer onderwezen en intelligent waren dan professoren.

Maya Angelou