No disrespect to Alexa Chung, but on Monday evening, she was overshadowed at her own holiday party — not that she minded. Chung partnered with Johnathan Crocker, VP of Global Communications at denim brand AG, to turn what could have easily been a standard-issue fashion holiday gathering into a celebration of HeForShe, the UN's global movement for women's equality.
"We knew we wanted to do something that was a bit more than your average fashion party, and definitely not just a random holiday party," Chung said over pre-dinner cocktails at The Fat Radish. "We wanted it to have a bit more depth, because personally, when we've been going to dinner, that's all we can talk about, is our fears and our hopes for the future."
Elizabeth Nyamayaro — Senior Advisor to Under Secretary-General, UN Women, and the Global Head of HeForShe Movement — was on hand to talk about why the movement is more important than ever. The party listened with rapt attention as she shared her story about growing up impoverished and hungry in a small village, saved from days of hunger by an unknown girl in a blue dress who gave her a small meal one day. The girl told Nyamayaro that she wanted to help raise her people up, something that stuck with her and carried her all the way to the UN.
Having Nyamayaro on hand was important to drive the message home about the work HeForShe does; in addition to the dinner, AG will be matching up to $50,000 in donations to HeForShe during the next two weeks. "It's about lending our voices in this room tonight and educating ourselves about what we can do to put those words into action," Chung said.
We chatted with Chung about HeForShe and what her relationship is to clothes today — and if you want to donate to HeForShe, you can do so at the UN Women's website.
Why is HeForShe important to you?
I first heard about HeForShe through Emma Watson, who is someone I admire. She's an amazing actress, but she's also someone who uses her voice in a very important way. I just felt as though, at this point in time, it's more important than ever to cheerlead for women's rights and to be as inclusive as possible for equality to become a reality.
How do you view the relationship between fashion and feminism?
One day, I'll look at it, and I'll be like, how fucking frivolous and stupid are clothes? They're just what we adorn our bodies with, and it's all about status and bullshit. And the next day, I'll be like, no, these change the way I feel about myself. What I shroud myself in can change my attitude and empower me to be more confident. Even though it's just an aesthetic and it's quite shallow, because it's how I appear on the outside, it still, on the inside, gives me the strength to have a stronger voice.
I think fashion and feminism make great bedfellows. I mean, trousers! Women wearing trousers in the '40s kicked up a fucking shit storm. Similarly, in the '20s when everyone was like, "I'm not going to wear a corset anymore!" Those clothes had been suppressive, and the more we play with what's acceptable between the genders — and even not affiliating with any one gender in particular — dressing is becoming far more interesting, and it's becoming powerful because it sends a message.
Daily, I apologize for wearing dungarees, but that's a ridiculous thing to apologize for. I think I'm conditioned to the rhetoric around that being a sexless item, and that denotes the idea that women should only be sexual beings or are only there for the pleasure of the male gaze. But I won't apologize for wearing dungarees anymore. I think they're sexy.
How is your line going?
My line's going very well, thank you! It's not out 'til May.
Were you surprised by the reaction to that?
No, because the reason it came to fruition is because I'd been bolstered up by everyone else's enthusiasm for these collaborations I'd done, and I feel like the press had suggested it long before it was even on my mind. You think of yourself in a certain way, and then you read someone saying something nice about you and you're like, "Oh, okay! You think I can do that, crazy, okay I'll give it a go."
Speaking of press, a recent movement among female celebrities has been #AskHerMore. What are you tired of being asked?
I'm not really tired of being asked anything! I'm quite flattered that anyone cares, to be honest. But I'm not an actress, so I can guess it would be a bit more boring if you're only asked [about clothes] on the red carpet.
What do you wish people would ask you that they haven't asked?
Oh, nothing! I'm not like, 'Oh I wish you'd ask me about that deep, dark —' no. I'm all good.