For them, fashion offers a tantalizing trifecta of cutting edge social media messaging, great products, and, don’t forget, the opportunity to show off. The challenge, then, is to use this trifecta to get these young Americans to vote. To put voting into advanced mode, if you will.
The first step: attachment. Launched during this month’s New York Fashion Week – to coincide with a window where Americans can register to vote – this campaign features designers from Virgil Abloh, menswear Louis Vuitton and his own label, Off-White, to New York City supporters such as Proenza Schouler and those behind a series of trendy and sustainable labels such as Fe Noel, Lemlem, Brandon Maxwell, and Zero + Maria Cornejo.
Leveraging an existing collective social platform that reaches millions of people – far beyond any political party – the goal is to spread the Vote message. How? With every designer offering the allure of limited edition merch, and making it as simple as clicking from Instagram to the website, which lets you register to vote or check online status in most of the states that allow it. Joining together with an existing initiative, Voto Latino, they hope to register one million voters before the November 3 vote.
Second step: the product. Party political merchandise may not be new, but a T-shirt that says “VOTER MODEL”, in Abloh’s favorite font, will likely become the go-to outfit for Zoom’s call. What is radical is that in addition to offering non-partisan “merchandise”, designers are retooling their own e-commerce platform, encouraging shoppers to click not only “Buy” but also “Register to Choose.” And you can do the latter without the first.
Third step: where to wear. Over the last decade, fashion has co-opted events where the red carpet outside has covered the purpose of the guests. Think Oscars, Met Ball, Grammys. In this era of diminishing celebrity step-and-pose opportunities, the big idea is to co-opt the American sidewalk, to push the fun of dressing up to the level every voter sees fit. Fashion leaders will ask people to share “What should I wear?” on social media channels ahead of November 3, then posted what they actually wore on election day.
So should we dress for the ballot box here? We have a mandatory voting system, although it’s relatively easy to avoid civil liability if you can’t be bothered. Could it be that more people care if voting becomes a collective moment for the nation to be exciting? We who live in democratic countries are walking in the footsteps of giants who fight for our right to participate. So maybe we should at least wear our best shoes and something fancy. Personally, if I could vote in the US elections, I’d add a cloak and boots.
Marion Hume is a former editor Australian Vogue and a former international fashion editor Australian Financial Review Magazine.
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