The shop window was graffitied in the luxury mecca of Rodeo Drive after demonstrators protested the death of George Floyd | Photo: Getty
Over the past week, the United States exploded with anger and sadness after the inhumane killing of an unarmed black man at the hands of police.
The murder of George Floyd on May 25, after a police officer held his knee in Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes, had sparked riots across the country, with people pouring into the streets in protest despite the deadly pandemic which has caused more than 100,000 deaths in this country.
Giants sportswear Nike and Adidas lending quick public support to the protest, even when their own shop was looted. But so far only a few fashion labels have spoken. American designer Telfar Clemens is the beginning for the cause. And several big fashion brands have made statements.
After being criticized for launching a campaign for new handbags on Thursday amid mounting protests, Louis Vuitton make a statement on Instagram, featuring videos commissioned by the male creative director Virgil Abloh along with the statement: “Make change. Freedom from racism towards mutual peace. #BlackLivesMatter.” Gucci post a poem by black artist Cleo Wade that began, “We must put an end to racism. Start by healing it in your own family. ” Michael Kors and some also post pictures and support statements. But most of the big houses have been quiet.
The fashion industry has long benefited from black culture, adjusting “cool” to sell luxury products. Gucci “borrowing“From Dapper Dan is just one example. In recent years, the fashion industry has generated billions of dollars from streetwear styles associated with black culture, selling logo tees and sneakers for hundreds of dollars.
Lately, many fashion brands have participated in a wave of inclusive marketing, mostly to appeal to a new generation of consumers. But where is the same brand now?
Many are not accustomed to taking positions on socio-political issues. However, fashion should be a fantasy, and neutrality has long been considered the safest attitude.
But at one level, fashion brands must care because their consumers care. They increasingly hope that the brands they buy are in line with their values and talk about socio-political topics. Currently, almost two-thirds of buyers make purchasing decisions based on brand position on social or political issues, according to a 2018 global study by Edelman from 8,000 consumers in eight markets.
Nike and Adidas, whose customer base is still young and diverse, understand better than most brand positions about cultural politics as a determining factor in encouraging loyalty.
But outside of business logic, brands have a moral obligation to overcome racism. The company does not exist solely to benefit shareholders. They have a duty to manage stakeholders and the wider community.
Starting with talking. However, that is not enough. Companies also need to take action.
One of the most important ways to drive change is to create a channel of talent for people of color. Fashion remains an industry that is mostly white. Allah and Balmain Olivier Rousteing is the only black creative director in big brands, and there are almost no black CEOs. (TapestryChief Executive Jide Zeitlin is an exception.) Fashion must make a measurable commitment to recruiting black people to their senior rank, and not just in their human resources department.
Retailers and investors must also commit to supporting more black-owned businesses, whether by buying black-owned brands to sell in their stores – like Brother Vellies designer Aurora James placed in recent Instagram posts – or by investing in black brands so they can scale up and reach a wider audience.
The first step might look like that taken by the direct-to-consumer Glossier beauty brand, which is recently announced that, in addition to donating $ 500,000 to organizations that fight racial injustice, it will also generate $ 500,000 in grants to black-owned beauty companies.
It’s time for fashion brands to do more than just make statements and commit to doing the hard work needed to combat racism. Remember, racism is not just an American problem, it’s a human problem.
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