Fashion and politics. Not two institutions you’d usually throw together as a pair, but you’d be amazed at how clothes have been used to reflect the social and political climate over the years. It’s the ultimate symbolism; a way of expressing rebellion, patriotism, class and culture, while also becoming synonymous with certain individuals of the time (think Trump’s red tie, Jackie O’s Chanel suit and Churchill’s hat).

Fashion Stylist to the stars, Karen Williams

Fashion Stylist to the stars, Karen Williams

When it comes to politics and the social issues of the day, appearances are everything - especially during a time where self-expression is so boldly preached about. We spoke to fashion stylist Karen Williams - a woman who's dressed everyone from Beyonce to David Beckham - to see what her views were on how our wardrobes reflect our society’s past, present and future.

Fashion and politics have always been aligned and trends are often reflected in what’s going on politically,” she told us. “Think back to the ‘70s and how people used the punk fashion movement to express themselves against what was happening politically at that time.”

Some of the most relevant issues of today revolve around gender and sexuality, and this year has certainly been a triumph for national recognition of Pride Month, particularly in the fashion world. A number of brands including Levi and Calvin Klein released collections with a blended demographic; menswear and womenswear swapped for genderless pieces with the recognition that, in Karen’s words, “we are definitely not all the same”.

MORE: The fashion world excels itself with stunning Pride collections

“It would be great to find pieces in mainstream stores - not every young person has the money to spend on exclusive collections from exclusive designers but eventually this will filter down to the high street,” Karen muses. 

Meanwhile, another issue that dominates today’s social climate is the Black Lives Matter movement, which has been instrumental in bringing about changing attitudes in the world of entertainment, sports and business. The fashion world is no different; more and more focus is being placed on black designers in the haute couture industry, though when it comes to mainstream designers, there’s still a shortage of black designers in retailers like Harvey Nichols, Harrods, Selfridges and Net-A-Porter.

“There has certainly been a visible increase in black models which is a start, but black designers are still  infrequently stocked in big stores in comparison,” Karen reflected. Though in a world where consumers are growing more and more ethically conscious, the internet has been the biggest saving grace for designers that might otherwise get overlooked.

“Whilst I still think there is a still a lot of work to be done to help elevate and support black designers right from grass roots, I have noticed that more black designers are taking to social media to get visibility as traditional channels like magazines have been difficult,” Karen adds.

Speaking of being ethically conscious, sustainability is another huge theme in the fashion world with more people taking to vintage clothing platforms like Vinted and Depop, and opting for more sustainable materials like recycled polyester and organic cotton. Karen’s top tip for sustainable shopping, though, comes down to being careful how you shop.

MORE: Sustainable fashion: How to get behind this clothing revolution

“Buy classic modern pieces that don’t date so easily and get to know what you like and what suits you, so that you can wear it year in and year out with confidence,” she suggests.

Karen knows exactly what she likes when it comes to clothes, with the ‘40s and the ‘80s being two of her favourite decades from which to draw style inspiration (“Both trends sport nipped in waist details and shoulder pads which are always winners”).

However, when it came to the pandemic, she was fully behind the trend of that comfortable athflow look - though she wasn’t about to throw on holey leggings and a pizza-stained sweatshirt everyday like some of us.

“I took full advantage of the loungewear trend but tried to make it look chic,” she revealed. “For some people this wasn’t a great trend because it can come across as sloppy looking. I take full advantage of dressing up now that we can leave the house.”

Plenty of people took lockdown as an opportunity to reinvent themselves, however, and when Karen Williams helps people find their style, she goes for a more “holistic” approach than just finding the right clothes to suit the right people.

“My mantra is #FindYourFabulous,” she tells us. “I try to empower on as many levels as possible from fitness, fashion, manifesting, well-being and dancing - whatever lifts your spirits and helps you vibrate in a higher frequency.

”Besides, trying to decide whether or not horizontal stripes make you look fat, and panicking about not having the figure for skinny jeans is a thing of the past in a time of body positivity and self-love. Karen’s biggest mission is to encourage courage when it comes to building your wardrobe.

“Fear gets in the way of everything and if you don’t step out of your comfort zone you don’t grow!”

And if that wasn’t a statement we can build our lives around no matter how the world changes, we don’t know what is.

Follow Fashion Stylist to the stars, Karen Williams (@karenwilliamstylist) on Instagram.

by for

Tagged in