This weekend saw the Southbank Centre in London overrun by feminists: filmmakers, singers, performers, broadcasters, writers and academics that marked the centenary of International Women's Day with a full range of events, from gigs to film screenings amd full-on debates. The festival was entitled WOW - Women of the World, and kicked off on Friday with a gig headlined by 80's icon, singer, fashion innovator and now activist, Annie Lennox. We caught up with her backstage to find out what it is all about . . . .
Grazia Daily: Tell us about the WOW festival and your charity coalition, EQUALS. How have you ended up being the figurehead for the event?
Annie Lennox: This time last year, I went on the march through London for International Women’s day and I was shocked, and a little bit disappointed, at how small it was – and how little press coverage there was of it. Considering that we’re talking about half the population here, it doesn’t make any sense that women’s rights should be a minority concern. Together with Esme Peach, I’ve set up the EQUALS coalition of 30 leading charities and arts organisations. I just thought that it would make so much more sense to have all these people who are doing such important work to all be affiliated to each other, 'united we stand' sort of thing rather than scattered all over the place working at cross purposes.
Another thing that amazes me is how people these days don’t identify themselves as feminists. I mean – so many women seem to have the idea that it means you are anti-men, or somehow hate men. I was at a meeting the other day and I asked people to put their hands up if they considered themselves a feminist . . . and about half did. It’s dismaying. I mean, I even thought to myself; is there an alternative word we could use, or think of a new word? I think we should stick with the one we’ve got, just get more awareness and give it a bit more of a positive association and get some momentum behind it.
GD: Well, we think it’s working – we’ve seen much more press for International Women’s Day this year and it seems like the whole scheme is much more in vogue than ever . . .
AL: Well, I don’t like the idea that’s its more fashionable, more in vogue, because that implies it might then go out of fashion again. What our aims are is to get these campaigns to go really mainstream, and achieve equality between women and men. I mean, it’s the statistics. Anyone who looks at the facts and figures we’ve gathered is really shocked at the reality – people think of feminism and equal rights as something that took place in the past and that we don’t need to bother with any more. But the reality is very different. [Check out the reality of gender inequality on WeAreEQUALS.org from female victims of abuse, to the pay gap, the rape statistics, to female politicians in power - the facts are here]
GD: We also wanted to ask you about your fashion sense. Over the years, you have created some very iconic fashion statements, to the extent that we’re certain there are loads of fashion designers and stylists who have a picture of you on their mood board . . .
AL: YES! Yes, they do! Dolce and Gabbana do! [for A/W '11] Because they told me they did!
GD: OHMIGAAAD! That’s so cool! We loved that collection . . .
AL: So . . .
GD: So we wanted to know how you feel about that, AND now you’re known for your political activism as much as for being a performer, are clothes still as important to you?
AL: Can I just say; political with a small p! – but yes. People do have a strong image in their head when they think of me, and it was a strange process. I mean – I wasn’t the first woman to wear a suit like that but it did have a big impact. When I was really young, I was always making music, and I always wanted to dress the part. At first – because I didn’t have any money, I always wore second-hand costumes, then I’d get friends of mine who were designers to make me stuff which I designed, or to customize the second hand bits. That’s when I did all my experimenting, and made all my most hideous mistakes! Then by the time I got together with Dave Stewart [her bandmate in Eurythmics] I’d made all my mistakes and I knew exactly what I wanted. I wanted to wear a suit to show that I am equal to a man, not that I was wanted to be one, or that I was gay – which is what it was interpreted as . . . but there you go. People like to put all kinds of interpretations of their own on things. It is what it is. But you can’t go on being that person in the suit with the red hair your whole life, you have to move on. Now, I like fashion when it's someone expressing something different, I don’t like it so much when it's girls on the red carpet and it's this designer, that designer or when it's all about how much money you’ve got.
Anyway – I’m not so much about the clothes anymore now – I’m happy wearing my campaign t-shirt and doing my own thing.
Thanks so much for telling us Annie!
In case you had forgotten just how blimmin' cool Annie is . . . take a look at our gallery of some of her finest fashion moments from over the years!
- Naomi Attwood