Fashion and activism have always been entwined. Whether it's a nationwide conversation about the ethics of fur, Vivienne Westwood’s call for a "climate revolution," or the death of designer Chester Weinberg after a battle with AIDS, fashion has always inserted itself into contemporary conversations of change and advocacy.
After the 2016 election, there has been a noticeable spike in the fashion world’s involvement in activism, with brands like Gucci at the forefront. The luxury fashion house pledged $500,000 to March For Our Lives, instituted a line-wide fur ban, launched a global campaign for women’s rights, and has taken on many other activations stretching beyond the runway.
So when Gucci announced a queer zine called CHIME zine, after its global campaign for gender equality of the same name, it’s no surprise that activist superstar Adam Eli was named its editor-in-chief. Eli is the queer you couldn’t avoid on your Instagram if you tried. The omnipotent make-shit-happener is so good at cultivating action and change using the power of social media, that in the past year alone, Eli has launched countless global actions and demonstrationsagainst queer violence and injustice, been featured in Milk, VICE, Paper, Vogue, and landed a cover of DAZED magazine.
His ability to shatter the ceiling of mainstream media, getting activists and non-activists alike involved, make him a perfect fit for CHIME zine — a publication dedicated to voices for gender equality. Releasing three issues a year (“I am working on issue 2 as we speak.”), CHIME zine is a product of CHIME FOR CHANGE, Eli, the Gucci creative team, and art director MP5. CHIME FOR CHANGE is supporting multiple gender equality organizations like Equality Now and Ms Foundation, and the zine is available at the Gucci Wooster Bookstore in New York, the Gucci Garden in Florence, and select bookstores worldwide — but if you can’t get to those locations, a PDF of the entire thing is free on its site. Here, we chatted with EiC about the process and inspiration behind Gucci’s newest venture.
So — I heard you did some zine research! Talk to me about what era of zines you pulled from, or which collectives/organizations you were inspired by, and what your process looked like.
My first month or so was spent in research. I looked at old Star Trek fanzines, which inspired some of the fantastical illustrations and how they do or don’t correspond with the written components in the zine. I spent a lot of time with Riot Grrrl zines which often included a page that introduced the editors and encouraged readers to submit their own contributions to a clearly marked address. When it comes to issues of inclusion, CHIME zine and Riot Grrrl differ greatly, but zines like Bikini Kill did inspire our credits page, which has a submission address and the Instagram handles of our contributors.
I am most excited about our research moving forward. My work with CHIME zine brought me to the Gucci Garden in Florence where I became interested in Mario Mieli, a controversial writer, “pamphleteer,” and leader in the Italian queer liberation movement. I quickly learned that zines and self-publishing played a large role in the Italian queer rights movement, and that the queer liberation movement in Italy was very different then the one in America and I would need some help navigating the cultural disparities. Through Instagram, I made an Italian friend who is currently studying in Bologna, a city about an hour outside of Florence where the Italian queer rights movement was born. They gave me a queer-themed tour of Florence and will be consulting on the next issue. Their job is to send us contemporary queer Italian zines, search the Bologna archives for vintage texts and map the history of how self-publishing impacted civil rights in Italy.
Was there an anecdote, or anything specific from your research that directly inspired an element of the CHIME zine?
Yes! I was deeply inspired by a group of depression-era science fiction fanatics — pun intended — who took matters into their own hands. These fans were displeased with the science fiction magazines of the day so they wrote the editors in excruciating detail explaining why the stories were impossible or lacked sophistication. The editors got sick of having their work critiqued and began publishing the criticism with the return address. In retaliation, the fans cut out the middle person and began writing to each other bypassing the magazine entirely.
You say that the zine is more than just a beautiful object, but a “tool.” Why do you say that?
It is my dream that the CHIME zine will help its readers foster a global community. The history of zines, pamphlets, and self-publishing is bound with social change and connecting like-minded folks deemed by others as “radical.” Humans began to self-publish because they had things to say that mainstream media refused to.
This first issue of CHIME zine says a lot of things that I feel to be true but I never heard elsewhere, certainly not in print. For example, Alok [Vaid-Menon] insists “there are no such thing as Trans issues — just issues cis people have with us.” Hanne Gaby argues that intersex bodies are biological proof that the gender binary is a lie, and Edouard Louis questions the ethicality of putting his own rapist in jail when we know that prison makes people likely to commit another violent crime.
Believing that the gender binary is a sham and a source of tremendous evil and violence does not make you a heretic or a radical. Rather, it makes you an integral part of a booming global community fighting for gender equality beyond gender and towards freedom. Open a copy of CHIME zine and you will find yourself at home.
As an activist, why do you believe in the fashion world’s ability to cultivate change?
I define activism as identifying an issue, drawing attention to the issue in a creative way, and ultimately providing providing a solution. To do this successfully, having a platform to speak from and influence to exert can be really helpful, and fashion brands have both.
And why Gucci specifically?
I never forgot when friend and EIC of Out Phillip Picardi told me, “If you’re not standing for something right now, just sit the hell down. Because the rest of us have work to do.” Gucci takes a stand. CHIME zine absolutely takes a stand. I hope you will pick up a copy and stand with us.