Wonderland chats body positivity and the importance of inclusivity in fashion with activist Beth Ditto.
Body positivity activist and inclusivity icon Beth Ditto has been at the forefront of promoting self-acceptance and feminism since the dawn of girl power. The former lead singer of Gossip, Ditto, who grew up surrounded by Riot Grrls and punk rock feminism, has been an advocate for positive change in how bodies are portrayed in the media since way before anyone was championing the cause. She’s a through and through ambassador for ending negative language surrounding body image and promoting self love. Needless to say, we salute her.
Ditto has of late been designing killer clothing collections inspired by her experiences of not being able to find high-fashion and self empowering clothes that are not created solely in sample size. Ditto is an advocate for taking the groundwork that the original riot grrrls laid and paving the way for others to carry on the acceptance movement. Working tirelessly to spread a positive message and crush beauty myths, through both her activist work and her clothing line, Ditto is leading the charge on the body positivity crusade.
Beth describes her heroines as women – and men – who dress with independence and celebrate the perfection that can be found in imperfections. The collection shuns the concept of ‘flattering’ the figure, as is often the case with plus-size labels. Instead, Beth describes them as clothes to ‘celebrate, enhance and showcase’ the bodies she is creating them for. Ditto has, since Gossip days, been enamoured with make-up which is a key motif across the range. Think: vibrant eye pencil shavings, luxuriously dripping red nail varnish and statement making oversized eye lash prints.
The seriously #Major elements of the collection do not end there though. For the campaign Ditto cast her empowered girl gang via Instagram and assembled them in an LA house party set up, celebrating the incredible beauty that can be found in chaos. All this and she worked with Loverboy of the moment Charles Jeffrey and Hanna Moon. Did we already say major?
We lucked out and got to chat to Ditto on her latest trip to London and picked her brains on her new fashion collection, body positivity and the importance of inclusivity.
Can we start off with why you wanted to design the collection?
This one is different, I think, for a couple of reasons. I think it’s more grown up, but not in a bad way. I think in the way that it’s more put together and cohesive. I was really lucky that I got to work with my stylist which was really special because we’ve worked together for about 10 years, so he knows the struggle that it’s been. He lives in Paris so he knows the struggle that it is to find clothes for me, he really does work miracles and if we can’t, what’s that saying? If you can’t buy it, you’ll make it, if you can’t make it, you’ll borrow it and if you can’t borrow it you’ll steal it. We really did do that a lot, so we decided to make it.
I wanted to do it because I wanted to make something that you could be proud of owning, not because it’s my name. If you don’t see it and you have a chance to make it, because I’ve been really lucky, getting to do what I do, doing it on the level that I get to do it at. I have the chance to make something, and pay for it myself, and have control over it and even though it really really is a labour of love, I get the chance to do that and do it on my terms and do it for people that I understand. The worst part is that the price point is really difficult, because it is made in America, so it is not cheap to do. It really isn’t. It’s amazing how there’s a lot of rules made to make it almost impossible to make it inexpensive. That’s why I wanted to make it – I wanted it to exist basically. Now I think that’s it’s really great because there are a lot of people that are popping up and doing things, there’s a ton. Tess Holliday’s doing one, Rebel Wilson did a capsule.
Why do you think it’s now that body positivity and inclusivity has come into the mainstream?
It’s important and real. It’s crazy. I think it’s happening now because the internet is a big deal. In the nineties we went through an incredible change in pop culture, with Riot Grrls and grunge and all of those things, that was what I was brought up in. Now we’re in our thirties, and the people I was listening to in my teens are in their forties and fifties so the groundwork that they laid, laid groundwork for me and now everybody else that’s 15 years younger than me is growing up, they’re 20 years ahead.
How has the conversation around body positivity changed?
We’re 20 years later, and the feminist movement has taken back the word fat. The discrimination and marginalisation of fat people, especially fat women, was definitely connected to the patriarchy and self-hatred and keeping us in a shameful position of taking up space and all these other things that are feminism 101, like girl punk rock feminism and the aesthetic attached to that. I think that people who are coming up with those ideas, it was introduced to me at the age of 14. 20 years later, I’m 35, and the 20 year olds grew up with it. Now, it’s more in pop culture and mainstream because we’ve been pushing for it for 30 years. It’s a very different conversation than it was. It’s so awesome to think about – just think about what’s going to happen in the next 10 years! It’s gonna be great! We’ve got to keep the movement going and no backlash.
Do you think there are any issues within the movement?
We also have to do this thing where we don’t create another body standard in the fat movement, the positive movement, which is happening. That’s gonna happen, and it doesn’t mean that the models are wrong, it just means that we’ve got to not create that. It’s about body acceptance and not about creating another beauty myth. There’s an acceptable kind of fat and it’s all the same anyway, it’s all the same body. At the end of the day, a rose, by any other name is still a rose.
“The discrimination and marginalisation of fat people, especially fat women, was definitely connected to the patriarchy and self-hatred and keeping us in a shameful position of taking up space”
Why did you choose to work with Charles Jeffrey and Hanna Moon?
He’s so sweet. On Instagram I had seen what he had done, and I was like “this is amazing” and I started to follow him. It looked so incredible. It was really good and really easy to work with him. We had a good time. It was really really free, which is funny because Hanna Moon works on film, so when you have a really free concept, that you’re on film and then you have a lot of people who are young. You couldn’t move, so there was that. It was really really free, but at the same time couldn’t be too free. It was really good. It was really easy, super easy. I loved worked with Hanna too, super fun. She’s a director, so she wanted things a certain way. It should have been chaos but it was really good. I wouldn’t say it was a complete collaboration but there was a lot of input and a lot of people getting really excited.
What was shooting the campaign like? How did you find the models?
It was really cute. Cute models, some of who had never modelled before. I love photo shoots, I love fun. I had already followed a couple of the models and then Isabel Hendrix, she’s got blue hair, she’s great. She is fantastic. There’s another girl I saw in Portland at a fat fashion show, I saw her on Instagram a couple of times. People were really happy to do it. I was really happy to have them, and they were really patient. It was really good. I hope they had a good time. I wanted to make it as comfortable for them as possible, but I always wanted to teach them some things. I wanted them to feel good.
So do you have any inspirational women that you look to in this movement?
There’s tons! I really love a designer called Shawna who runs Chubby Cartwheels, and she is amazing. She is so incredible. Geek Junkie, a girl from Atlanta, who makes the craziest and coolest stuff. It’s DIY and it’s all for the love of it, but everyone’s just working so hard and I really love them. I think a really good thing that might have been done already is for people to do a segment on underground fat designers because there are so many who never get enough attention. They are killing it, it’s such a scene that has gone untapped for so long. It’s really incredible. It was lonely, for a long time. There was a group of us, but it was a very small group. Charlotte Cooper, is another person. She’s a long time queer fat activist.
I can’t image a world without this movement now!
I love that. It makes me happy to see how it’s working out, it really does. That’s why you do it. So that 10 years down the road… Think about Kathleen Hanna, I want to make those people proud too. The evolution of it, and do right by that, it’s very very important. It makes me happy that people grew up with this and they can’t imagine a world without it, it makes me so happy. I really want it to work, and it feels good, we we best keep it going. Let’s keep it going! Gender, body is starting to meld together to be this thing. It’s important. You keep it going! You will, you are.