In 2018, clothes are not merely a fashion choice: They're roving billboards denouncing sexual harassment.
We Wear the Pants is a fashion collaboration between Gabriella Meyer and Marta Goldschmied featuring 30 or so laser-etched news articles about sexual harassment on a denim jacket and a pair of jeans. It also includes a T-shirt with the slogan "Wanted: women who wear the pants."
Meyer is the founder of Denimcratic, a Chicago-based bespoke fashion brand made out of upcycled denim. Goldschmied is a fashion designer and co-founder of Made Gold, a denim company she left after she experienced sexual harassment herself, as reported in a New York Times article introducing the collection.
Since the official launch of the line on Thursday, it has already sold 25 percent of its inventory, with 10 percent of each purchase going to the National Women's Law Center.
"The response has been so positive, it's really helped me heal," says Golschmied in an emailed statement to Inc. "It made me feel like a part of the dialogue and like I have the power to hopefully create some change around how women are treated in the workplace."
"We Wear the Pants collection is really focused on gender equality and aiding women seeking legal help in regards to hostile work environments," adds Meyer.
The standalone three-piece collection from the two designers is currently only sold online. It will also be available in three pop-up stores, one in L.A. that is opening this summer, and two others in New York and Milan that will launch in September for Fashion Week. The first production run, consisting of 65 jeans and 55 jackets, was sponsored by Turkish company ISKO Denim, which will also put up the financing for the pop-up stores. Tonello, a laser-engraving company, and Metalbottoni, which made the buttons, are also part of the collaboration.
To be sure, "political fashion" is not a new thing. There are myriad examples throughout history: from women ditching dresses in favor of pantsuits to Vivienne Westwood's 2005 "I am not a terrorist" T-shirt line protesting controversial anti-terror laws in the U.K. In 2016, hot pink pussycat hats became a feminist symbol, and they are a frequent sight at just about any protest.
Meyer says they decided to hone in on companies and associations faced with sexual harassment allegations to illustrate how the problem is a systemic institutional issue and not the product of "a few bad seeds."
"Even in the articles where you can see the person facing these allegations, the article envelops the company's response to the allegations, and how they chose to handle it," she adds.
Uber, for example, which reportedly fostered a culture that facilitated sexual harassment under the leadership of ousted CEO Travis Kalanick, is featured prominently in the design. The $375 jacket also depicts a photo of Bill O'Reilly around the waist area, and the $250 jeans flaunt Larry Nassar's photo on the left butt cheek.
In social media, some users were quick to question why women would want to wear the names and faces of alleged sexual harassers in their bodies. Others complained about the steep price tag and the fact that the jeans sizes only run up to size 10.
"In terms of pricing, laser technology is new and certainly not cheap," says Meyer. "Our hope is that with the success from the first round of production will help us to pay for the next. And of course with that, we will be expanding in our size range, as we want to be inclusive of all body types."
In terms of the design, the news articles are etched by stripping the indigo dye from the cotton. Meyer explains this method allows the print to fade and wear off with every wash. "We hope that as the jean fades, so does the reoccurrence of issues stemming from gender inequality, like sexual harassment in the workplace."