Fashion is a universal language. It’s a way we express ourselves without any language barriers. It can empower women to look and feel their best and send subtle messages to an interviewer for a new job, a hot date, or even strangers on the street.

Yet, sometimes you want to go for a bolder statement à la graphic tee.

Recently, fashion has stepped out of its usual boundaries and has gone political. Last fashion week, Dior’s runways were graced with “We should all be feminists” plastered onto models’ tees. Other brands such as Jonathan Simkhai and Prabal Gurung followed suit with phrases like “Feminist AF,” “The Future is Female,” and “Nevertheless She Persisted.”

Photo: Mic

It wasn’t long until the statement trickled down to fast fashion brands for cheaper prices. If you search “feminist” on Forever 21’s website right now, everything from t-shirts to hoop earrings to chokers to cropped bra tops pops up with the phrase scrawled across the items — all priced $25 and under.

On the surface, one might think this is great.

Young women are showing that they want to support other women and are proud to let everyone know. They are being more vocal than almost ever before. But, are “feminist” tees really helping women or are they just a superficial way to sell more cheap clothes?

Photo: Harper’s Bazaar

The same Forever 21 t-shirt that declares its wearer a feminist was made at the expense of the women who made it.

Of the 60 million people who work in the global shoe and garment industry, 80 percent are women between the ages of 18 and 24. True feminism is supporting fellow women in our neighborhood women rights marches and supporting the woman sitting at a sewing machine in an overseas factory.

Photo: Left, women in America protesting in the 2016 Women’s March. Right, women in Bangladesh protest for their rights in garment factories in 2014.

We can support the women who make our clothes by learning who they are, listening to their stories, and remembering their hopes and dreams are no different to ours. When we wear our values, we support brands that support these women.

In the words of Sreyneang, a maker met on Remake’s journey to Cambodia, “We are all sisters.”

Editor’s Note: This article is an adaption of The Fabric Social’s article “Lovewashing is the New Greenwashing and It Has To Stop.”

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