Celebrate a century of suffrage this International Women’s Day with Gillian Wearing & Bella Freud

Gillian Wearing Suffragist handkerchief

This International Women’s Day, we bring you Plinth’s latest collaboration with designer Bella Freud and artist Gillian Wearing celebrating the centenary of women’s vote and London’s most influential women – past and present – with two brand new product ranges, proceeds of which will be donated to the Fawcett Society. 

Wearing has produced an edition of 1,000 embroidered handkerchiefs, each featuring signatures from 50 historical figures including Caroline Criado Perez and Gillian Wearing herself.

Wearing hit headlines last year for her statue of suffragist, Millicent Fawcett, which was unveiled in Parliament Square in April 2018. Commissioned in response to a campaign by Caroline Criado Perez, which saw nearly 85,000 signatures applied to an online petition, the statue is the first of or by a woman to stand in the historic London plaza.

Gillian Wearing Suffragist handkerchief

Suffragists and suffragetes had a long history of embroidering the signatures they couldn’t apply to an electoral roll to pieces of fabric – table cloths, banners and handkerchiefs like this one – via the traditionally female medium of needlework. The edition aspires to honour that tradition of craft, and amplify the names of activists often forgotten whilst celebrating recent triumphs in the battle for gender equality.

Wearing’s latest collaboration with designer Freud follows the release of a capsule collection alongside the Parliament Square unveiling in April. Freud has designed a tea set – tea pot, cup and saucer, sugar bowl and milk jug – featuring the slogans, ‘Suffragette City’, ‘Women’, and ‘What do women want’ – a quote from the designer’s great-grandfather, Sigmund Freud – in Bella’s trademark graphic lettering.

Althought released in 2018, the tea set and Wearing’s editioned handkerchief are inspired by Millicent Fawcett’s message 100 years ago. The projects celebrate the progrss made by women since 1918, whilst foregrounding the ongoing fight for women’s rights. Part of the proceeds from sales will be donated to the Fawcett Society, who still campaign for gender equality to this day since their founding more than 150 years ago.

Bella Freud X Gillian Wearing

Wearing’s handkerchief is currently being shown at TJ Boulting as part of their new exhibition, ‘Subversive Stitch’.

Freud said, “This [project] is not about a power struggle; this is about equality.”

“Equality for women is good for everyone, men included, because everyone thrives when they are treated fairly and with respect.”

“I wanted to make the message of the words on the products act like triggers and connect with things that are uplifting and inspire courage.”

“Music, art and fashion are ways for people to voice change.”

Wearing added, “Bella’s range is about reaching out to everyone with ideas expressed in her unique manner via the text on the totes, t-shirts and so on.”

“Fashion can be used to express ideas regarding politics and art, and that fashion can be a way to open up discussions and thoughts; someone holding a banner can do the same.”

“I am a big fan of Bella [Freud]’s and delighted to collaborate with her on this.”

Justine Simons, Deputy Mayor for Culture and Creative Industries said, “It is 100 years since the first women secured the right to vote, but the fight for gender equality continues.”

“This year has been celebrations, campaigns and creative projects marking this historic centenary, with Gillian Wearing’s statue of Millicent Fawcett in Parliament Square a real highlight.”

“These designs by Gillian and Bella Freud are a striking tribute to the bravery of Millicent Fawcett and suffrage campaigners, inspiring curiosity and raising funds for the Fawcett Society to continute campaigning for gender equality.”


WeAreTheCity have an exclusive 15 per cent discount for any of the items in the Gillian Wearing / Bella Freud Collection. View the collection here and use the code: WeAreTheCity15

Alison Simpson
About the author

Alison is the Digital Content Editor for WeAreTheCity. She has a BA Honours degree in Journalism and History from the University of Portsmouth. She has previously worked in the marketing sector and in a copywriting role. Alison’s other passions and hobbies include writing, blogging and travelling.

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