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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 September 2005, 14:02 GMT 15:02 UK
The power of T-shirt slogans
By Anna Browning
BBC News

It may not be haute couture but the humble T-shirt is nearly always fashion's favourite when it comes to making waves, grabbing headlines and raising cash for a good cause.

Vivienne Westwood launching Liberty T-shirt
Vivienne Westwood has come out in support of Habeas Corpus

The latest to make such a fashion statement is British designer Vivienne Westwood - teamed with civil rights group Liberty - who is protesting against the government's "draconian" new anti-terror laws.

But the Punk pioneer is by no means the first fashionista to use T-shirts to get a message noticed.

The BBC News website looks at the slogans designed to attract our attention.


"I am not a terrorist," says Vivienne Westwood's new 50 T-shirts, "please don't arrest me".

Launched to raise money for human rights group Liberty, the group says the tops are trying to draw attention to government proposals to create new terrorism offences and to allow three months' detention without charge.

"When I was a schoolgirl my history teacher, Mr Scott, began to take classes in civic affairs. The first thing he explained to us was the fundamental rule of law embodied in Habeas Corpus," says Westwood.

"He spoke with pride of civilization and democracy. The hatred of arbitrary arrest by the lettres de cachet of the French monarchy caused the storming of the Bastille.

"We can only take democracy for granted if we insist on our liberty."

No T-shirt is going to save the world
Will Nutland, Terence Higgins Trust

So will they work?

According to Liberty, T-shirts can make a difference - as part of a campaign.

"They may not change the world but they allow us all the opportunity to state clearly our support for liberty and human rights," said a spokesman.

Will Nutland, head of health promotion at aids charity the Terence Higgins Trust, said such T-shirts were still useful in generating publicity and public awareness and debate, although this depended on what they were trying to say and who was wearing them.

"They can have an impact, particularly when they are worn places that we least expect them to be seen," he said.

"But no T-shirt is going to save the world. It might contribute, but not on their own."


To date the Fashion Targets Breast Cancer T-shirts have raised 6.5 million since their launch in the UK 10 years ago.

They first hit the catwalk in New York in 1994 after Ralph Lauren's friend Nina Hyde, the editor of the Washington Post, died of breast cancer.

Elle MacPherson in Fashion Targets Breast Cancer T-shirt
Elle MacPherson is one of several who have promoted the T-shirt

It is now an international campaign and operates in 10 countries, including the UK, Brazil, Canada and Greece.

Name a supermodel and it is likely she will at some point have modelled the recognisable "target" logo.

They include Yasmin Le Bon, Jodie Kidd, Elle MacPherson and Gisele Bundchen.

According to charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer, the money raised by the T-shirts over the last decade is proof of their success.


Katherine Hamnett, another British designer, has become famous - if not infamous - for her protest T-shirts.

The anti-nuclear T-shirt proclaiming "58% Don't Want Pershing" that she wore to Downing Street to meet Margaret Thatcher in 1984 has become the stuff of legend.

But she did not stop there.

In 2003 Hamnett sent models down the catwalk in London wearing T-shirts shouting "No War, Blair Out".

Katherine Hamnett and Naomi Campbell
Katherine Hamnett is now sceptical about the power of the T-shirt

She has also called for action on pollution and for Third World debt to be cancelled.

And she again used London Fashion Week - and model Naomi Campbell - to urge people living in Aids-ravaged Africa to wear condoms.

Her T-shirts are "copyable", because Hamnett liked the idea of the copiers unwittingly promoting her messages.

But asked whether T-shirts can make a difference, the designer says she has become sceptical.

"The original thinking behind it was that it would become seminal," she said.

"It would get people thinking and then it would happen. But it doesn't happen that way."

She points to the anti-war march before the invasion of Iraq, when thousands wore T-shirts. But, she said, the government "didn't listen".

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", she said.

She is now selling T-shirts for a new campaign, to raise money for lawyers for Military Families Against the War, while others give information on how to contact MPs.


The success of the Trevor Beattie FCUK campaign has been phenomenal.

When it was first launched in 1997 the French Connection clothing store piled on profits as its tongue-in-cheek T-shirts, alongside advertising hoardings, captured our attention

"People liked the humour aspect of it," said a spokeswoman.

But times have changed and both the buying public and French Connection have moved on.

According to the company, brands and logos are no longer as fashionable.

"It is very much not the market anymore," she added.

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