#Metoo: Fashion with Tabitha Fielteau
Women have risen in the past year and we show no signs of slowing down but propelling forward at ferocious speeds. Many of us have watched friends and family closest to us claim ownership of #MeToo via social media. Many of whom we had no knowledge they even had a story to share. No knowledge, whatsoever. Men took to social media apologizing to women for any involvement, unbeknownst or aware, as the response from the world has been overwhelming. The light shed on sexual assault towards women has been as blinding as an LED lit billboard on a major highway.
We sat down with our Athens, GA based fashion designer, Tabitha Fielteau, to understand the perspective of #MeToo from a fashion standpoint.
TF: I would like to start off by saying the Me Too Movement has brought some serious issues forth that have been unaddressed in our society. Men in power (or not) have abused their power which have led to the voice of women to be muffled; and the consequences for speaking up could be the ending of a career they have worked hard for, stop them from advancing, and most importantly taking the power that a woman has over her own body. Even though the #metoo movement started mainly among celebrities, we all know this unfortunately is a commonality in the common world. Having such a large platform is a privilege so when you have an opportunity this is how you should use it, for good. We also have to think of the plight of many undocumented immigrant workers in this country; who are more fearful to speak up when they are being sexually harassed, assaulted, or raped on the job. #Metoo is a world issue.
TFT: Absolutely, as #metoo is a world dialogue that is finally happening. Within this dialogue there have been years of defense that has warranted a man’s reason for harassing a woman sexually based on what she wears. Her dress was too tight, her skirt was too short, she looked like she wanted it and so on. How do you feel a woman's style precedes her?
TF: Fashion and clothing is definitely a visual expression of ones' self. I believe first impressions are everything, but this should not allow you to make a biased judgment or treat an individual without respect because of it. If a young black man wears a hoodie and you immediately assume he is a thug, shows your prejudice. If a woman wears a revealing dress that does not mean you have the right to harass or degrade her. But I do believe we as women have a lot of power and it starts by how we carry ourselves in what we wear, how we conduct ourselves, and how we communicate. We also have to teach our sons, nephews, cousins, friends, and any young boy or men we come into contact with how girls and women are to be respected, admired, and not mistreated, regardless of her appearance.
TFT: How would you describe the woman you design for?
TF: The Tabitha Fielteau woman is a woman who knows her self-worth. She is lover of fashion, but with sophistication. She invests in quality including her wardrobe and her presence demands attention.
TFT: Would you agree that to be a designer for a certain type of woman or customer base is to exclude other women?
TF: I never thought of my position as a designer was to exclude, but just the opposite. To bring in the woman who may never see her style as sophisticated, but over time she may grow into seeing herself as a Tabitha Fielteau woman. To provide a variety of options for the woman who sees herself in my brand. To bring in the busy mom who is always on the go and doesn't have time for self, but the Black Lotus Gown may be perfect for the Ballet, gifted from her husband. This is not to say as a designer or brand that I don't have a target audience, but never to exclude.
TFT: How do you feel the ME Too Movement may or may not fit into the world of fashion design?
TF: The fashion design industry includes so many different working parties like designers, seamstress, models, photographers, agencies, stylists, creative directors, editors and the list goes on. Whenever there are billions of dollars to be made, morals can be tested. Fashion can be a very exciting industry, but very pressuring especially for young models, who may not have their parent or guardian with them at all times. I know there are so many #metoo fashion models who have experienced assault or has spoken up to their agency and the agency brushes it under the rug to maintain business. We as professionals in this field should speak up for issues that have been desensitized as a norm.
TFT: The style of women has evolved and evoked freedom in the way we present ourselves. Has it been the role of the fashion designer to push the envelope on women’s rights and freedoms? How?
TF: We know there is a wage gap between men and women in this country. I believe modeling to be one of the prominent career fields where women make more than men. Therefore, we can have a bigger voice. If the supermodels advocate for the younger models it can make a difference. If we as designers showcase a variety of women no matter the skin you are in this also perpetuate a culture shift for inclusion of all women. And most importantly as designers we should support women in other countries who are making the clothing. These women should be supported greatly by the designers who own the big fashion companies. If you give them the means to advance themselves that does not only create an opportunity for them in their countries, but give them power. We all have a responsibility in fashion.
TFT: How does your brand represent women’s rights and progression?
TF: My brand (which I hope to expand) will focus more on producing garments from within. All garments will be and are currently made here in the United States. Therefore, labor practices and wages will be adequate. I also have speaking engagements where I talk to the youth about what I do and how they too could follow an entrepreneurial path as myself.
TFT: Last question: Do you too take ownership of the hash tag Me Too?
TF: [nods] #Metoo.
The Tabitha Fielteau Team
Written By Gwenn McGuire