In the world of fashion, a “statement piece” is an article of apparel meant to help the wearer stand out and express their unique personality and style.
To that end, some fashion designers are leveraging their craft to create head-turning pieces to convey a deeper message.
Meet three cross-cultural designers who are redefining the statement piece.
Felicia Noel, aka Fe Noel
First-generation Grenadian-American fashion designer Fe Noel wants women to express their full, multifaceted, colorful selves. Combining the vibrancy of the Caribbean with the glamour of New York, Noel creates show-stopping pieces designed for jet-setting women with style.
This couture robe was stitched with US$1.6 million of artificial money, to highlight the potential gap in retirement savings due to gender-based wage gaps, unequal share of caretaking responsibilities and lack of financial education.
The campaign, #retireinequality, makes a powerful statement. The Fe Noel campaign was part of a series of TIAA marketing campaigns featuring high-profile women leaders across various disciplines to highlight the problem of gender-based retirement inequality. Women, on average, retire with 30% less income than men.
In a video featured on the campaign’s website, Noel says, “Being a fashion designer for me was always more than making really beautiful clothes. It’s also the story I’m telling. I wanted to not just make women feel beautiful, but also feel powerful. I want it to be life-changing for them. If we have retirement inequality, it’s hard for us to do that. We’re serious about making this statement, and we’re making it in fashion. We’re serious about closing the gap.”
We’re serious about making this statement, and we’re making it in fashion. We’re serious about closing the gap.”Felicia Noel, Founder of Fe Noel, on the #retireinequlity campaign
In June 2023, Noel celebrated her fashion label’s 10-year anniversary by opening the doors to her Brooklyn-based boutique, Fe Noel Little Carribean. The boutique is situated in the very neighborhood where she grew up, which is home to the “largest and most diverse Caribean-American-LatinX community outside of the West Indies.”
Eva Zinzi, Zeva Designs
Without a single Kenyan shilling to spend on advertising, Zeva Designs Founder Eva Zinzi created a line of clothing that not only reached 2.8 million social media views and earned $125,000 in media exposure, but it is literally saving the lives of women and girls in her home country of Kenya.
How? By exposing the critical harm of period shaming.
The whole campaign evolved organically. Zeva Designs launched in 2020. Primarily advertising through Instagram, the colorful designs caught the attention of marketing executive Megha Dutta, head of Creative for JWT Scanad.
As Zinzi explains, “We were in contact for a while, and I got to know her and her passion for advertising. When Senator Gloria Orwoba got period shamed in parliament, it was a no-brainer to come together and speak up against such a despicable act. So, we brainstormed and came up with the idea.”
Dutta elaborates, “When the parliament incident happened on February 14, 2023, it inspired or rather shocked us into action. We co-created this campaign to normalize the sight of period stains through her clothes and rally the government to make period shaming a punishable offense.”
Within the first three weeks of launching the eight-piece “Stain Not Shame” capsule collection, which featured colorful clothing with custom-printed bright red pops of color representing period stains (designed by Jesse Okumu), Kotex officially joined the campaign.
Fast forward to 2023: The Stain Not Shame campaign has had massive success, in both the marketing industry and within Kenyan society. The #stainnotshame campaign took home a Silver Lion for PR Culture, a Bronze Lion for Social and Influencer Culture, and a Bronze Glass Lion for Social Change at the prestigious 2023 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.
It also contributed to an important decision within the Kenyan government. Just one month after the launch of the campaign, Honorable Harriette Chiggai, advisor on women’s rights to Kenyan President Dr. William Ruto, announced an official pledge to create an anti-period shaming policy under the Kenyan Penal Code.
Both Zinzi and Dutta have been quite moved by the experience.
“This campaign evoked in all of us a strong sense of sisterhood of shared shame,” Dutta says. “We saw so many women and men come together to support this action, from influencers to students to senators. The campaign really gave everyone a symbol of solidarity. Professionally, [the campaign] brought home Kenya’s first Glass and PR Lions and Scanad’s first Social and Influencer Lion. But there is a lot still to be done, so here’s hoping, and celebrating!”
Zinzi echoes, “Personally it’s been life-changing. I didn’t expect it to go viral. I was simply using my skill as a form of activism and hoped that the campaign would spark a conversation around period shaming, something that has plagued my country and tormented girls and women for a long time (an extreme instance leading to death). This campaign allowed me to look at fashion not just as a business but also as a tool I can use to speak up against the ills plaguing society. Business-wise, this was a step in the right direction. The designs were worn by some of the most popular influencers with millions of followers. This, in turn, came with a lot of media coverage, an increase in followers, and the growth of my brand equity.”
This campaign allowed me to look at fashion not just as a business but also as a tool I can use to speak up against the ills plaguing society.Eva Zinzi, Founder of Zeva Designs
The Fashion of Colm Dillane, aka KidSuper
Turning street style into haute couture, Colm Dillane, owner and founder of KidSuper Studios, combines print, collage and plenty of color into every design. The aesthetic feels like watching a fast-paced pickup game of basketball on a hot Brooklyn court or playing tag inside a Basquiat painting – totally intense, playful and boundlessly creative.
The rebellious and rule-breaking nature of KidSuper has attracted the attention of some of the biggest global brands in the world including Louis Vuitton, UGG, Suicoke, the NBA, Tommy Hilfiger and Meta.
According to Esquire Magazine, Dillane was highly influenced by his cross-cultural upbringing. His mother was a Spanish artist-turned-teacher and his father was an Irish fisherman.
Born in New York, U.S.A., Dillane’s family moved to Mexico, Chicago, Ill., U.S.A. and Beloit, Wis., U.S.A. before returning to New York when he was 13.
As an adult, Dillane’s passion for soccer took him to Brazil and later back to Brooklyn where he opened a 10,000-square-foot creative factory that includes retail space, a cafe, a gallery, a performance space and even a soccer pitch.
What’s Dillane’s statement? In short, “Live. Life. Super.” Forget conventions and bring back the kid inside that just wants to break all the rules and play!
MAKING A STATEMENT THROUGH FASHION
Fashion has always been used to make a statement without saying a word. In today’s social media landscape, it’s never been easier to wear your heart on your sleeve and make a bold statement that reaches the masses.
What kind of creative statement will you make today?