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Meet Florence Given, the 20-year-old illustrator who wants you to ‘dump him’

Olivia Petter speaks to the artist combining feminism with fashion

Sunday 14 July 2019 13:07 BST
(Florence Given)

Florence Given thinks “it’s a wonderful day to dump him”. Or at least, that’s what her T-shirt says.

Given might be just 20 years old, but the British illustrator’s tongue-in-cheek slogan tops and tote bags are quickly becoming some of the most sought-after items on Instagram.

Hence why she’s fronted campaigns for Tinder, been named Cosmopolitan’s Influencer of the Year for 2019, and designed tour merchandise for Rita Ora, who described her as an “incredibly empowering artist”.

Of course, Given’s designs don’t just pack a style punch. Sure, the bright colours and retro fonts make for some highly Instagrammable #content, but it’s the feminist messages behind them that are getting people talking.

Through slogans such as “protect your energy”, “not taking any more sexist bulls***” and “off for a shag”, Given aims to empower women to embrace their sexuality and speak out against toxic patriarchal ideals, such as slut-shaming.

“I want to encourage women to question the world that they were born into,” Given tells The Independent. “I want them to find their power and realise that they should never settle for less than they deserve.”

It might come as no surprise that Given was inspired to create one of her most revered designs, a slogan T-shirt that simply reads “Dump Him” in a swirly 1970s-inspired font, in the wake of a breakup.

“I dumped my boyfriend and realised that I had been pouring so much of my time and energy into someone who had no intention of giving it back,” the illustrator explains. “I was running on empty, and for what? I had been constantly trying to ‘fix’ and ‘grow’ someone when I could have been putting that energy into myself.”

Given explains how she tired of “mothering a man-child” in her relationship and wanted to push back against archaic gender roles that pigeonhole women into fulfilling servile stereotypes.

“I realised that this was a role women so readily accept and take on in relationships without questioning it,” she explains. “We just do it for the validation that someone loves us. I wanted to use my experience to hopefully lead other young women to the same liberating realisation; that you don’t have to settle, you are the love of your own life, and everything else is a distraction.”

It’s powerful messages such as these that prompted former Love Island star Megan Barton-Hanson to wear one of Given’s designs on live TV to discuss criticisms she’s faced for previously working in the sex industry.

By wearing the T-shirt, which read “stop valuing women based on their sexual history”, on Good Morning Britain in September, the ex-glamour model crystallised one of Given’s most passionate causes.

Given explains: “When I think about what fires me up inside and what really angers me, it’s the entitlement to women’s bodies. It’s the way we are viewed as existing for male consumption in the media, which in turn reflects in how men treat women’s bodies in real life.”

Given, whose role models include academic Rachel Cargle and feminist influencer and author, Chidera Eggerue, grew up in Plymouth before enrolling at London College of Fashion.

However, she dropped out last year to pursue art and writing full-time. Despite the clear political statements she makes through her designs, Given prefers not to call herself an activist (“I’m an artist and a writer”) and is currently penning her first book, which will explore how the prevalence of the male gaze has shaped society’s view of female sexuality.

“I want to keep spreading my message through the mediums of speaking, creating artwork and writing – this book is going to enable me to do just that,” she said.

Until then, expect to see more of Given’s kitsch designs swarming your Instagram feed. “I’ve always loved styling and fashion and hope to create a collection soon,” she adds, pointing to issues that she hopes to address in future work, such as consent.

As for how best to style Given’s playful T-shirts? Try tucking them into a pair of suit trousers with a matching jacket, she suggests, or pairing them with a pair of flared jeans and pointed-toe boots. “The more dramatic and bold the outfit, the better,” she adds.

You can shop Given’s designs on her website here

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