Like so many Jewish women, I’ve fallen for fashion.
I’ve stocked my side-table with glossy advert-infused magazines, filled my wardrobe with their seasonal “must-haves” and admired the artistry behind a thousand-pound couture gown.
But of late, the increasing presence of offensive – some might say antisemitic – designs on UK high-street brands has called into question my loyalty to an industry that capitalises on controversial trends and, at the very least, lacks any real regulation.
This year, the use of Nazi insignia on top brands has been condemned by antisemitism watchdog, the Community Security Trust (CST).
Multi-national retailer H&M sold a line of men’s vests emblazoned with a devilish skull at the centre of a large star of David; Topman produced jackets decorated with an emblem once worn by Nazi SS volunteers; and Thor Steinar — the brand of choice for neo-Nazis — opened its first UK branch in north-west London.
Once, far-right individuals had to order covertly their political garments from white supremacist websites; now, they need only turn to the UK high street.
In the wake of questioning from the JC in March, Fenwick Brent Cross managers decided to remove Boy London from its shop-floor, recognising that the brand, whose logo bears a striking resemblance to the Nazi Parteiadler symbol, had offended Jewish shoppers. But if you visit retailers from Asos to Selfridges, or flick through a celebrity magazine, you are more than likely to spot an award-winning singer, model or reality TV star wearing the latest Boy London line.
The trend towards fascist fashion has prompted CST to ask whether insignia that could offend Muslim and Christian groups would so easily make its way to a UK shop-window display.
The Jewish community has been quick to decry the designers who produced the goods, or lambast the buyers, who claim to have been ignorant of the insignia’s true meaning. But actually, we should also be pointing the finger at influential Jews who hold high-ranking positions in the fashion industry.
Their silence, throughout the latest bout of offensive designs, has deafened us all.
When British model Kate Moss decided to campaign against anti-gay laws in Russia, she raised awareness of the issue by starring in a controversial documentary, wearing a balaclava. When Brazilian black models decided to tackle racism in the industry, they planned a topless protest around Rio Fashion Week. Burberry model Jourdan Dunn has also been quick to criticise designers who hire one token black model for catwalk shows and campaigns. Former supermodel Janice Dickinson participated in a near-naked protest to put a stop to wearing fur in fashion.
It seems like every minority group has a token high-ranking fashionista hailing its cause — except us. With so many Jews working in fashion, from retail magnates to writers and designers, why have we been so silent?
When fascist fashion became an issue, where was Arcadia’s Sir Philip Green or members of the British Fashion Council, formerly headed by one-time Jaeger owner Harold Tillman?
Why did writers – from Telegraph fashion editor Lisa Armstrong to Guardian fashion writer Hadley Freeman and International Vogue editor Suzy Menkes – resist the urge to vent their frustrations? What were designers – from Nicole Farhi to Eve Pollard to Elizabeth Emanuel – thinking? Did they decide to stay silent for the sake of civility?
But it’s not good enough. The talented fashion police – who have done so much to improve our wardrobes – also share a communal responsibility to educate colleagues and take a stand against the rising issue of fascist fashion.
And that goes double for Jews in the fashion industry. We can’t complain about fascist fashion if our own people don’t seem to care.