Design for Dissent: Political Participation and Social Activism in the Colombian Fashion Industry

Photo of woman wearing designs created by Polite.
Polite’s spring–summer 2017 collection featured the famous phrase pronounced by Federico García Lorca, “Quiero llorar porque me da la gana” (I want to cry because I feel like it) as a message rejecting the decades-long war and forecasting a brighter, peaceful future for Colombia. Photo
courtesy of Polite.

In recent years, Colombia has experienced a renewed interest in social, political, and humanitarian issues, within a stormy political climate marked by the signing of a peace agreement in 2016 and the polarizing presidential elections of 2018. Trying to forge alliances within a politically polarized nation, social and political movements have focused on the need to end a long-lasting internal conflict; the desire for the safe reallocation and reparation of victims of forced displacement; and the rejection of gender-based violence. Fashion, as a rightly sensitive social barometer, has taken active part in the debates around these issues. From members of the fashion elite openly supporting a certain presidential candidate, to brands taking inspiration from social issues in their collections, it is evident that recent political happenings are central to the Colombian fashion industry. Studying a number of collections, images, and social media communications of major fashion brands of international renown, smaller, local designers, and celebrated fashionistas, this paper studies the ways in which members of the Colombian fashion industry have taken to political participation and social activism within the current political climate. It provides insight on how fashion, among other cultural processes, becomes political in times of uncertainty and transition.


Beltran-Rubio, Laura. “Design for Dissent: Political Participation and Social Activism in the Colombian Fashion Industry.” In “Fashion As Politics: Dressing Dissent,” edited by Elke Gaugele and Monica Titton. Special issue, Fashion Theory 23, no. 6 (September 2019): 655–678.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *