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Katharine Hamnett meets Thatcher

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In 1983, Katharine Hamnett launched first of her protest T-shirts: they were designed to be copied, slogans and all, and read: CHOOSE LIFE, WORLDWIDE NUCLEAR BAN NOW, PRESERVE THE RAINFORESTS, SAVE THE WORLD, SAVE THE WHALES, EDUCATION NOT MISSILES, etc. Thanks to the excess media coverage, she was chosen as the designer of the year by the British Fashion Council the next year and was invited to the Downing Street to meet with the Prime Minister.

Hamnett was not a supporter of the-then PM Margaret Thatcher, and was reluctant to go. But she decided to seize the photo-op to make a political statement. The United States had recently deployed controversial Pershing II guided missile being in West Germany, and Hamnett wore a slogan T-shirt declaring “58 per cent Don’t Want Pershing”, specifically ensuring that the lettering on the shirt would stand out in photographs. She wore it under her stylish jacket, and removed the jacket just before meeting the prime minister. She made headlines the next day.

Vogue magazine called it one of the most iconic moments in fashion, but Hamnett admitted that her fashion statement didn’t make quite the impression on the Prime Minister that she hoped. Hamnett remembers: “She didn’t notice it at first, but then she looked down and made a noise like a chicken. Then quick as a fishwife she said: ‘Oh well we haven’t got Pershing here, so maybe you are at the wrong party’, which I thought was rather rude as she had invited me.”

Although she later became increasingly skeptical of whether T-shirts can make a difference, Katherine Hamnett enjoyed the idea of the copiers of her T-shirts unwittingly promoting her messages. In 2003 Hamnett sent models down the catwalk in London wearing T-shirts shouting “No War, Blair Out”, and thousands wore copycat T-shirts to the anti-war march before the invasion of Iraq. Hamnett concedes that there is also a danger with T-shirts (and marches) that they “give people the feeling that they have done something when they haven’t”.

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

May 10, 2010 at 3:22 am

8 Responses

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  1. Katharine Hamnett made a great statement with those t-shirts I still have mine.

    Vicki Day

    May 10, 2010 at 9:47 am

  2. Hamnett concedes that there is also a danger with T-shirts (and marches) that they “give people the feeling that they have done something when they haven’t”.

    anyone that helps spread a message has done something. no matter what media they employ.

    restrain capitalism

    October 5, 2010 at 6:57 am

  3. Vicki and restrain = useful idiots

    Hix

    December 1, 2010 at 2:37 am

  4. Hamnett thought Thatcher rude! You mean like wearing a political protest vest at a non-political event. She even mixed up Pershing with Cruise which kind of blunted the effect

    paul

    March 17, 2011 at 4:36 pm

  5. view anti thatcher petition at, http://www.gopetition.com/petition/41746.html it’s about her role in the BAE/Saudi deal.

    k wicks

    March 29, 2011 at 11:46 am

  6. I remember it – Mrs T didn’t make a noise like a chicken – she handled it with aplomb, indulging Hamnett like the spoiled overgrown teenager she was. The iron curtain and all its horrors was brought down in no small part by Mrs T. Not by Bolinger Bolsheviks wearing T-shirts.

    Maturin

    September 17, 2011 at 10:12 am

  7. […] Besuch bei der damaligen Premierministerin Margaret Thatcher (1984) Quelle: http://iconicphotos.wordpress.com/2010/05/10/katharine-hamnett-meets-thatcher/ […]


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