• William Hu

Black Lives Matter: Fashion's Response

Following the tragic death of George Floyd, many have begun to question fashion’s authenticity to inclusion and anti-racism. With different responses to the Black Lives Matter movement, fashion has taken an undeniable variety of responses to such a movement, from collaboration funding to petitions featuring rising POC designers to challenge the Council of Fashion Designers of America, or CFDA, to conduct an industry consensus.

In response to BLM, many brands have collaborated to gain fundings where 100% of revenue will be donated to various organizations and funding groups, including the Gianna Floyd Fund, National Bail Out, Campaign Zero, and the Freedom Fund. One of the most notable collaborations was between nine (9) major labels composed of the following: Fear of God, Union Los Angelos, Noah Clothing, Off White, Awake NY, Just Don, Denim Tears, Pyer Moss, and Melody Eshani. In response to an Instagram comment addressing concerns of availability for the T-shirts, Fear of God’s Jerry Lorenzo replied, “[It is] limited to the fabric availability we have. We are cutting all we have.” With each T-shirt being $100, the collaboration surely garnered the attention of fashion-heads alike. Similarly, high-end techwear brand 1017 Alyx 9SM released the “Anti-Racist Action T-shirt” where all profits were donated to a variety of organizations. 

Collab T-shirt Design

Image courtesy of Fear of God's Instagram

Similarly, A-Cold-Wall*’s Samuel Rossreleased a financial aid program to help aspiring, independent black businesses, along with a generous £10,000 donation to a BLM charity. The program grants 10 individuals £2,500 for a total of £25,000. As posted by Samuel Ross on June 3, grant categories include tech; urban planning; design and engineering; professional, scientific, and technical services; education and training; arts and recreation services; agriculture and farming; accommodation and food services; public administration and safety; and retail and fashion. Inspired by the heroic deed, futuristic and contemporary artist Daniel Arsham matched the fund, offering $30,000, where 10 black artists and architects will receive $3,000. 

High-end Brand, A-Cold-Wall*, Founder: Samuel Ross

Image courtesy of The Guardian

Nonetheless, a long-needed emphasis for POC designers have arisen in response to BLM. Racism has always been controversial in this industry. Valentino’s SS16 “Wild Africa” Collection (where only roughly 9% were black), Marc Jacobs’ SS17 disrespectful usage of dreadlocks on dominantly white models, and Comme Des Garcons Homme Plus’ AW 20 whitewashed runway where every look featured braided wigs without any cultural message: all these shows have demonstrated black cultural appropriation to some degree. Runway shows, assuming the fashion industry maintains the biannual fashion show tradition post-COVID19, will need to demonstrate a more inclusive selection of models in response to the BLM Movement. Similarly, there has been a lack of diversity witnessed in fashion magazines in the past. For instance, 2019’s Vogue Poland featured zero people of color. Now more than ever, brands must be aware of potential false representation. With fashion’s inclusivity questioned, as of June 15, 2020, roughly 250 black fashion professionals released a petition denouncing the CFDA’s anti-racism efforts and calling for action from the organization. In honor of the first black Prêt-à-Porter designer Patrick Kelly, these professionals have released The Kelly Initiative, a petition demanding a census be taken on the CFDA regarding black employee data, asking employers to hire more people of color, and proposing an annual release on benchmarks and chart progression. 

In the wake of monumental action, responses of equal magnitude must be taken. With numerous brands standing in solidarity with the movement, the future of fashion will be undoubtedly affected by the Black Lives Matter Movement. Until the industry sees the changes, consumers akin to non-consumers can take action through methods such as, but not limited to, researching current events, signing petitions, and donating to organizations.

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