Opinion

Why we need to talk about the #MeToo clothing collection

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Sarah Biddlecombe
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The movement should never be used as a marketing ploy – especially to sell “sex on legs” and “take me off” dresses

The #MeToo movement may have gone viral a mere eight months ago, but it is already one of the most powerful crusades in internet history. Originally founded by activist Tarana Burke in 2006, the campaign erupted on 15 October 2017 when allegations of rape and sexual assault were levelled at Hollywood heavyweight Harvey Weinstein. Alyssa Milano sent a tweet asking women to share their own experiences under the hashtag #MeToo; an army of women from every corner of the globe replied.

The hashtag soon emboldened those who had been too scared to come forward with their stories. It gave a loud and clear voice to those who had previously been speechless. And those who felt alone suddenly found themselves standing, shoulder to shoulder, with millions of others. Twelve million others, in fact.

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But as the #MeToo movement marches on, it feels almost inevitable that people will try to use its momentum to drum up some cash. Let me introduce you to the week’s most poorly conceived idea: the #MeToo clothing collection, from Australian designer KHÒLÒ. I didn’t even realise I’d been waiting for someone to bring it to fruition until it popped up, unwelcome, in my Twitter feed.

Harvey Weinstein arriving for his first court date earlier this month

I could see other people quickly echoing the thoughts that were drumming through my head: namely “oh, no” and “the f**k?” When I clicked through to the KHÒLÒ website I saw the brand had already taken note of the criticism, having renamed the line and uploaded a statement of defence to their site.

“Yes, we renamed this the Magnificent Woman collection,” the statement reads. “If an artist made a piece of art and sold it in a gallery and it was titled #MeToo - would that strike the same conversation? Is it any different because I’m making 20 items of clothing? Or 10 badges?”

It’s a valid point, but one that proves just how far off the mark the brand really is. People didn’t react so strongly to the collection because it was a line of clothing – I have no doubt we would see the same level of outrage levelled at a #MeToo line of art, if that art was being peddled under the hashtag in the name of making the artist a quick buck. Because that is the real issue here: the #MeToo movement is being ripped off. And let’s be clear: the #MeToo movement is not here to be used as a commercial ploy, whether someone wants to sell a midi skirt or a piece of fine art.

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Even if the brand was, as it says, “inspired” by #MeToo, the collection is entirely at odds with everything the movement stands for. The statement says the clothes are for the “warriors… the wounds… the healing”. But what place does a “sex on legs” dress have in the wardrobe of a woman facing relentless sexual harassment at work? What strength can a sexual assault survivor possibly draw from dropping $119 on a “take me off” slip dress? I can’t think of many items of clothing I would associate with #MeToo, but it’s certainly not either of those – or, indeed, any of the 4.8million shopping results Google serves me when I type in “buy #MeToo clothing”.

Let’s not forget that the two little words of the movement didn’t just have a big impact online – they have come to symbolise collective strength, especially as more and more of Hollywood’s elite fall from grace like dirty dominoes toppling one after the other to the ground. Just look at what’s happened so far for proof; Weinstein was arrested and will appear in court in September; Kevin Spacey was dropped from House of Cards; Mario Testino, Terry Richardson and Bruce Weber have all lost their lucrative contracts. To name just a few.

They say there is no such thing as bad publicity, and I have no doubt the name of this collection has put the fashion brand temporarily on the map. Whether through a misguided mistake or a calculated PR move, KHÒLÒ has elbowed its way into our consciousness. 

And even if the brand does, by some miracle, rake in a huge sum of money from the collection, I urge anyone considering following in their footsteps to take a step back and question who they would really be supporting with such a venture. Ask yourself: is it me too, or is it really just me?

Images: Getty