Fashion brand Paisley launches a currency valued at 21% above the value of the Euro to reflect the gender pay gap

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Background

Paisley, the German men’s fashion brand as opposed to the bohemian print, launched its first-ever women’s collection in March. In true hipster style, this business set itself the lofty task of making a statement that reached beyond fashion: this needed to be empowering and all zeitgeisty and shiz.

The Big Idea

The bespoke clothing hipster folk didn’t want just any female attention – no siree – this is expensive tailoring after all. Just as the Gender Pay Gap bus was travelling at full speed, Paisley hopped on board to attract the attention of enlightened, cerebral women who cared about such matters. But these kind of gals wouldn’t be seen dead using a coupon, so instead it created a ‘currency’ called FEM that was valued at 21% above the value of the Euro, giving back to German women what they lose to their male counterparts… but it’s only spendable in store… on Paisley clothes… so it’s basically a coupon.

What They Did

Well, it had loads of fun designing the notes and made sure it used loads of pink ‘cause women are totally into pink. Then it looked through history and chose some famous faces. Here’s the audience participation bit: think of a famous woman from history – go on, you must know one… Marie Curie, you say? Yep she’s on there. Flo Nightingale, yeah her too. Jane Austen? Natch. Ok, you get the picture.

So, it designed some money and offered women the chance to redeem the currency in store at its Hamburg flagship branch. But hold on, just as it starts to sound all a bit self-serving, it said other brands could come on board too. Aw shucks Paisley, fanks for helping us wimin, we couldn’t do it without you.

Review

Whilst the aesthete in me loves the simplicity and clarity of the idea, I can’t reconcile with it coming from a fashion brand of this nature. This label is no Katharine Hamnett – Paisley isn’t standing for anything – it’s just literally throwing money at a problem it is playing no genuine role in solving. The slightly empty ‘call to action’ for other brands to join the Fem currency is weak and that’s another reason why it sticks in my throat. It’s a sweet idea set up to make absolutely no impact on the issue it’s allegedly tackling.

In Hindsight

If I had my hands on this, I would attach the central idea to genuine action. I want a corporate pledge that Paisley will pay all its men and women equally. I want an active social media campaign that reaches beyond 23 Facebook followers and 11 Twitter followers. It could have even supported FEM’s launch with insight about the existing pay gap in fashion and led a movement to improve its industry’s pay. It could have turned this from a cute idea to a weightier input to the debate and, most importantly, it could have been credible.

And if I’m forced to get granular, I’d also wager the faces chosen for the notes are pretty much lifted from the York Notes on feminism. Paisley had an opportunity to shine a light on Gender Pay Gap campaigners in the world today – actresses like Emmy Rossum for openly campaigning to be paid the same as her Hollywood male co-star, sports stars like Jeanette Kwakye who’ve openly called out sporting-pay disparity or even male feminists of the boardroom like Johan Lundgren, CEO of Easyjet, who took a pay cut to match his female predecessor. It could have been much more powerfully executed to tell a genuine story, rather than lazily leaping to the same old names that pioneered equality, but aren’t the ones taking us over this final hurdle.

Whilst it’s a neat idea, it’s no campaign. And whilst I admire the ambitious tone of the activation, I can’t see myself paying for my Tampax with FEM anytime soon.

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