In the past couple months, the United States of America has been subject to an intensely rising bipartisan political climate, as well as an ugly exposed underbelly of the systematic and systemic racism that the country has been built on. With the killing of various Black individuals by police, a list so long, of which George Floyd and Breonna Taylor have recently unfortunately made, there has been a rise in support of the Black Lives Matter Movement, protests erupting all over the globe as a result. This rising civil rights movement is now aiming to expose the embedded racism that has manifested into every facet of life, including the world of fashion.
Fashion companies left and right, are being targeted and called out on their racist tendencies, microaggressions, discriminatory attitudes, and treatment of their Black colleagues. It began with pressure for haute couture luxury fashion brands that largely benefit off of Black culture, to release statements condemning racism in all its forms. It continued with prominent fashion models, such as Bella Hadid or Joan Smalls echoing that statement, calling upon the fashion industry to stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. While an array of fashion brands publicized their statements, for many it felt like a shout into the void; an empty promise – simply a manner to further hide their racist propensities. Former colleagues began to come forward and uncover the true identity of these fashion companies. The brand, ‘Reformation’, promoting sustainable women’s clothing and accessories, was publicly besmirched for its racism, smearing its reputation. Upon viewing the company’s call to action, Elle Santiago, the former assistant manager at their flagship store, caused waves as she shared the experiences she encountered with the brand, and with Yael Aflalo, the brand’s founder, and CEO. Some comments from Aflalo include that upon being shown a Black model she responded, “we’re not ready for that yet.” With Elle Santiago’s commentary making front-page fashion news, thanks to the help of the infamous Instagram page that introduces audiences to the reality of behind the scenes fashion, known as Diet Prada, Yael Aflalo promptly released an apology statement and stepped down from her position.
The exposure and criticism didn’t stop there, of which Anna Wintour, the editor of Vogue, was not exempt. Ex-employees of Vogue started to speak out about their experiences facing racism at the infamous fashion bible magazine. In a publicized statement, Wintour apologized for not elevating and making enough space for Black people at Vogue – employees, creators, designers, photographers, writers, and editors – along with taking full responsibility for any hurtful and intolerant images or stories that have been previously published. Her apology statement was continuously met with scorn and disproval from former employees and collaborators, proving their distaste with anecdotes and situational explanations of the incidents.
The amalgamation of exposés on these triumphant and highly regarded sects that fabricate the fashion world has caused certain fashion brands and industries to become boycotted and “canceled” (due to what is known as “cancel-culture” rapidly rising among younger generations). Individuals have started taking their affairs to Black-owned fashion businesses, supporting and promoting these local brands. As the public becomes further educated on the reality of the capitalistic system and the manner in which it explicitly aims to repress members of the Black community, as opposed to supporting these high fashion conglomerates that have only proved to further oppress the Black community, people have taken to funding them directly. The addition of a new Google Chrome extension known as “Progressive Shopper” has only further directed individuals on what fashion businesses to support. The way the Progressive Shopper extensions functions is that it allows those who are online shopping and perusing certain company’s websites, to see where their political support lies and can, therefore, make an informed and educated decision before shopping. The continuous growing bipartisanship, and the everlasting hatred (that has only seen further growth) towards Donald Trump, is allowing for companies that are lending their support to his campaign, to be openly made vulnerable. This Progressive Shopper app kindly inquires that you avoid giving your business to any company that Supports the Trump administration and his policies, giving you an array of shopping websites to further investigate. This has allowed online clothing brands and haute couture fashion companies, data to be revealed, displaying where their loyalties lay – proving detrimental in the case that they have swung on the Trump spectrum of politics.
In just the past month, the plethora of challenges that has been humbling the fashion industry is going to leave irreparable scarring and damage. While human injustices and political blunders have always remained a constant as history went by, now is the time that the fashion world must begin catering to the vast dilemmas that are plaguing the world, and therefore the fashion industry by extension. It is imperative that the world of fashion begin to create spaces for the Black community, and devote their resources to fighting injustices before it can be expected to get business and support back to where it was or even better than before.