Katharine Hamnett x Jeremy Deller tshirt collaboration at Milan Fashion Week
On Friday 22 nd February Katharine Hamnett hosted an event at 10 Corso Como to celebrate the exclusive launch of her tee shirt collaboration with renowned British artist Jeremy Deller.
Renowned for their political activism and expression, the two artists came together during Milan Fashion week and in the final lead up to Brexit to create a well-timed, provocative slogan tee shirt which reads “we are all migrants” in Italian and using the colours of the Italian flag.
“Wonderful to collaborate with such a successful British artist - we are all migrants and sons and daughters of migrants - that is what humanity does. I’m Welsh, Viking, Yorkshire, Indian and Jewish. Check your DNA!” –
100 limited edition tshirts were created for the event which were then handed out to guests on the evening.
A graduate of Central Saint Martins, Katharine Hamnett launched her brand in 1979 with a range of eclectic women’s designs; menswear followed in 1981.
That year also saw her release the first of her many slogan tees CHOOSE LIFE, soon followed by EDUCATION NOT MISSILES, WORLDWIDE NUCLEAR BAN NOW, PEACE, SAVE THE WORLD, YOU – ME, SAVE THE SEA, CLEAN UP OR DIE, and SAVE THE FUTURE – these are central to the Hamnett DNA of the provocative and political writ large.
Katharine, known to the British public as a “bad girl with integrity”, was the first person to win the British Fashion Council’s “British Fashion Designer of the Year” and signed her first international licences. Across the media and on the street it was the summer of the slogan tee. Wham wore CHOOSE LIFE for one of their videos. Perhaps the most famous was the 58% DON’T WANT PERSHING t-shirt that Katharine wore to meet British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher: a bold political act that made front page news around the world.
Sustainability and ethical production became of prime importance, further shaking up what was expected of a global brand. Katharine’s 1989 research into the environmental and social impact of the clothing and textile industry horrified her as she discovered that the true cost of fashion was paid in environmental degradation and human suffering. She lobbied the industry to act for change, but with little success. She campaigned directly on issues such as the use of pesticides and the plight of cotton farmers, and badgered her licensees to reduce the environmental and social impact of her collections.
It was a war before its time, so Katharine took the decision to gradually wind down her brand – ripping up licences – until production methods could meet her environmental criteria. She moved out of the mainstream industry to concentrate on campaigning, political activism and collaborating with charities.
Now sustainable materials have at last caught up with her activism, in large part through her high-profile campaigns. Sustainability is no longer a left-field notion, consumers are increasingly demanding sustainably made products, and people are agitating for change in all areas.
Katharine Hamnett London re-launched in 2017 with reissues of many classic archive unisex pieces that are as relevant today as they always were, along with a wide selection of new designs – now all sustainably and ethically produced in Italy.