Activism

How protest fashion became this year's hottest Christmas gift

Got an activist in the family to buy for? Give them the gift of protest

Image: Shutterstock

This has been a year of strikes and marches – and Christmas brings another opportunity to be
an activist as people give the gift of protest. These makers are making it happen.

LAME

Ethan Crawford is a professional doodler, and director of the popular clothing brand LAME. His ‘Eat the Rich’ t-shirt, with a fat banker on the front is a protest against wealth inequality. Crawford said: “That tee was inspired by the ‘wafer-thin mint’ scene from Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life, where the guy in the dinner jacket eats so much he is blown up like a balloon. People are rightly angry at rising rents, rising poverty and the widening wealth inequality, and don’t feel the likes of Rishi Sunak and Jacob-Rees Mogg can understand or even acknowledge the reality of their experience. And though I am not seriously advocating cannibalism I do absolutely love the conversations sparked across the political spectrum by wearing this T-shirt.

“I will always have a deep love for satire and political T-shirts, they have a unique role in protest over the decades,” he continues. Having said that there is a delicate balance between representing my sincerely held beliefs on issues and profiting off those same issues. No art is apolitical, but when I do sell overtly political T-shirts in the future they will be to combat those injustices meaningfully by transparently funding relevant charity organisations.”

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Jade Muat Dodd

Jade Muat-Dodd, an illustrator and maker from Merseyside, creates bright and colourful trinkets, from accessories to homeware. One line that has proved popular among her customers is her ‘F*** The Tories’ series.

“I try to create art that I like and feel strongly about, and if other people like it too then that’s a bonus! Starting off as just one badge design, it got such a good reaction that I knew I had to translate it onto different products. It’s gone from badges to prints, stickers, earrings, pet bandanas, purses, handbags, clothing and probably even more than I can think of.”

Bean Hive 

You know a shop is special when it garners a one-star review on Google, from someone “shocked and appalled” by the “completely detestable and pointless” political slogans in the window. Owner of Bean Hive by the Sea in Falmouth used parts of the review to create products, including a T-shirt that says: “I bought some tat at Falmouth’s cave of horrors”.

“Our infamous one-star review criticising us for our political stance has become one of the best advertising tools we’ve ever had,” said owner Em Parker.

The shop contains everything from pro-trans rights tees to queer badges and lucky dip bags, with profits going to the shop’s chosen charity each month – December’s being medical aid for Palestine.

Parker said: “The shop has always reflected my politics. We have increasingly become more overtly confrontational with our messages and products over time, but we’ve always made a conscious effort to stock things from queer, people of colour, female, non-binary, trans and makers and designers from marginalised backgrounds, which is political itself. By selling their things we are giving a clear message – their voice needs to be heard.”

Topple and Burn 

Libby Freeman, owner of Topple and Burn, makes political jewellery, protest clothing and posters with slogans such as: Smash The Patriarchy, Refugees Welcome, Feminism and They/Them. It began when Freeman made a necklace to raise money for Calais Action in 2017. 

“I expected to raise about £200, but even with my awful makeshift website it went viral and sold hundreds in the first week,” she said. “I started making different designs about other causes I was passionate about, and it evolved into a business very quickly. 

“We get a lot of messages from customers telling us that wearing our jewellery empowers them and how it starts a lot of important discussions. When you have passion and rage about things that really matter to you, the self-expression that comes with being able to wear how you’re feeling is a release.”

Honey-blue Stevens is a member of The Big Issue’s Breakthrough programme.

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine, which exists to give homeless, long-term unemployed and marginalised people the opportunity to earn an income. To support our work buy a copy!

If you cannot reach your local vendor, you can still click HERE to subscribe to The Big Issue or give a gift subscription. You can also purchase one-off issues from The Big Issue Shop or The Big Issue app, available now from the App Store or Google Play

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