British designer Katharine Hamnett has made a career out of power political statements. (She famously greeted Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in a T-shirt that said “58% Don’t Want Pershing,” in reference to public opposition over Pershing missibles in the U.K.) But the slogan-tee pioneer and ethical fashion trailblazer surprised even us when she received her Commander of the Order of the British Empire medal in an outlandish red-feathered hat by Philip Treacy. Less shocking was her views on pesticides in cotton, a subject she’s campaigned for since 1989. “Consumers want organic cotton,” she says, “but the industry is taking a long while to catch up with demand.”
Convincing people to go green hasn’t been easy, she admits. “I do feel like I’ve been a bit of an Old Testament prophet preaching in the wilderness,” she says.
“I do feel like I’ve been a bit of an Old Testament prophet preaching in the wilderness,” Hamnett says.
Hamnett is still going strong, as recent collaborations with the Selfridges’ Project Ocean, Yoox, and Net-a-Porter attest. But for someone whose fierce political agenda included dressing models in T-shirts printed with “No War, Blair Out” in opposition of the Iraq War, the blessing of the Queen is bemusing.
“I am surprised to have been awarded a CBE, because I have been so blatantly critical of both major political parties,” she says. “Its real value to me is if it helps people here and abroad take what we do more seriously, increasingly putting social, political, and environmental issues higher on the agenda.”