By all accounts, the November elections are shaping up to be one for the record books. Not only will it include the first women of color as the Vice Presidential candidate for a major party, but the country also will be voting during a pandemic — a situation that is introducing all number of logistical challenges.
To help encourage Americans to cast their ballots (either in person or by mail), a growing list of brands and retailers are helping get out the vote. Many are launching consumer-facing initiatives to whip up excitement ahead of November, while others have pledged to close their offices on Election Day to give employees an opportunity to head to the polls.
Below is list of all the footwear organizations celebrating our civic duty:
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American Eagle Outfitters
The specialty retailer — parent to its namesake brand, as well as the Aerie banner — has announced a partnership with HeadCount, a nonprofit that works with musicians to promote voter registration and participation in the election process. Both American Eagle and Aerie have released voting-inspired T-shirts with 100% of the sales benefiting the nonpartisan organization. What’s more, the company has launched its Vote 2020 Action Center, where shoppers and workers can register to vote, sign up for election reminders and discover other resources ahead of Election Day. It has enlisted influencers and creatives like Grace Owen, Lachlan Watson, Nia Sioux and Kenidra Woods to use their social media platforms to bring tips and information to the public.
The Brother Vellies designer teamed up with Keds to launch a vote-themed sneaker, and 100% of proceeds will be donated to When We All Vote, a nonpartisan organization launched in 2018 by Michelle Obama and Valerie Jarrett to increase participation in every election. The canvas sneaker features a special message handwritten by James supporting When We All Vote, and come with special laces and a Brother Vellies charm. The shoes retail for $95 and are sold exclusively on Brothervellies.com. In addition, Brother Vellies is launching $35 crew socks, sold separately, that pair perfectly with the Keds kicks. For every pair of socks sold, $5 will go to When We All Vote.
In tandem with the release of its Will Work For A Better Republic campaign, Banana Republic has announced its partnership with nonpartisan nonprofit Rock the Vote to promote voter registration during the election year. Starting Sept. 10, the retailer will sell a series of reusable, non-medical grade cloth face masks with the messaging “Vote for a Better Republic” emblazoned across the front. The masks will be available to shop on BananaRepublic.com, with $5 from every face mask purchase going directly to Rock the Vote until the company is able to donate up to $25,000.
Birdies teamed up with Danielle Stern of Leftys Right Mind to launch the Vote Collection to help raise awareness and encourage women to register to vote. The five styles are hand-painted with symbols representing women’s journey toward voting. Designs include the word “empowered” in soft script; a yellow rose in honor of suffragists who wore the flower-shaped pin in 1920 during a rally in Nashville to ratify the 19th Amendment; and stars in purple, white and yellow as a nod to the women’s suffrage movement. They are selling for $165 a pair on Birdies.com.
Birkenstock is giving its U.S.-based workers a paid holiday to vote in the 2020 presidential election on Nov. 3. (It has about 200 employees in the country.) “We are certainly not doing it to make a political statement or a social statement,” CEO of Birkenstock Americas David Kahan. “We really just want to empower our workforce.”
L.A.-based menswear label Buck Mason announced on Sept. 1 that it joined the Time to Vote initiative and will make Election Day a paid holiday for all of its employees. As part of its pledge, the company will close all of its 11 retail stores on Nov. 3 and pause all office and warehouse operations for the day. Buck Mason co-founder Sasha Koehn said in a statement, “With so much at stake, voting has never been more critical.”
In June, Tapestry-owned Coach made its first foray into politics when it announced a partnership with More Than a Vote, a nonprofit created earlier this year by LeBron James and other pro athletes, aimed at combating voter suppression in the Black community. Chief marketing officer Carlos Becil told FN that Coach has promised to mobilize its full resources, including employees, stores and collaborators, to amplify the organization’s mission. “Our country is in a unique moment in time where racial inequalities, specifically those affecting the Black community, have reached every corner of the national dialogue,” said Cecil. “Coach believes American companies need to take responsibility to drive change, and this is a year of change.”
Footwear Distributors & Retailers of America
FDRA launched the online education center ShoeVoter.info in July. The nonpartisan online hub, which is maintained by a third party, offers users a range of information, including their state’s registration rules and deadlines, absentee ballot guidelines, voting locations and requirements, plus a list of candidates in their district. “We felt like this election year, with everything going on, we could build something that would be a one-stop shop for footwear companies to get their employees educated and activated,” said Andy Polk, SVP at FDRA.
GapKids’ fall ad campaign, “Be the Future,” has a mission to amplify young voices calling for change, and inspire the next generation of activists and leaders. In addition to ads featuring youth change makers, the campaign includes non-medical grade face masks with the words “Vote” and “Be the Future,” selling on Gap.com for $18 for a 3-pack. Proceeds benefit When We All Vote and Rock the Vote. In addition, Gap will be partnering with the two nonprofits to help inspire its community to register to vote this election year.
On Election Day, H&M USA is offering paid time off to all 17,000 employees to cast their votes. Through its voter registration and education initiative in partnership with I Am a Voter and the American Civil Liberties Union, the fast-fashion chain’s U.S. business has set up in-store signage that encourages staff members and shoppers at its more than 560 stores across the country to text HMVOTES to 26797 to check their registration or sign up to vote. It has also created a landing page on HM.com to support the ACLU’s efforts to help voters understand their rights and access the vote-by-mail option in their respective states. “As a member of the Civic Alliance, we recognize the importance of businesses working together to build a future where everyone participates in shaping our country, and we are excited to offer our H&M customers and staff an easy way to register to vote, learn more about their rights as voters and to provide our teams with the necessary paid time off to cast their ballots,” H&M USA president Stefan Vos said in a statement.
In addition to collaborating with Aurora James this year on a pair of sneakers to benefit the When We All Vote organization, Keds is still offering a pair of sneakers created last year with designer Rachel Antonoff. Launching on National Voter Registration Day in 2019, the Triple Kick platform shoe is detailed with the worlds “Hysterical Female” and was intended to promote social change and raise awareness for women’s rights. They’re selling for $75 on Keds.com.
Kenneth Cole invited design students and graduates to create artwork that will inspire voters for the election. The brand provided students with a choice of three messages: “If You Don’t Vote, We Don’t Exist,” “You Vote, We Exist” and “Vote to Exist,” which they used to create illustrations and graphic designs. The brand will be posting the top entries on its own social channels, and also will receive help sharing the messages from CFDA, Civics Center, Civic Alliance, College Fashionista, I Am A Voter, TurboVote and Vote Early Day 2020.
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We reached out to thousands of design students to help us increase voter turnout by creating artwork around the idea of VOTE TO EXIST. Look out for more designs, and in the meantime, make sure you’re registered to vote at: http://tvote.org/kenneth-cole #MakeTheStatement #Vote2020 #RegisterToVote @mesha.ss @gyalwonder @rachyeesam
Levi’s was an early supporter of the Time to Vote initiative that launched in 2018 with the goal to increase voter turnout. Chip Bergh, president and CEO of Levi Strauss & Co., posted a passionate Op-Ed on CNN’s website recently that called on all CEOs to get on board. “Even in the best of times, voter turnout in the United States is one of the lowest in the developed world, and it doesn’t help that many Americans struggle every election season to get time off work to vote,” Bergh writes. “It’s our duty to make it as easy as possible for our employees to vote, especially given the unique challenges voters are facing this year.” The brand also has enlisted help from high-profile pals — including Hailey Bieber and Jaden Smith — as part of its new PSA to inspire more young people to cast ballots in November.
On Aug. 13, Naturalizer launched a shoe collaboration that draws attention to the importance of voting. Together with Rebecca Lee Funk, founder of activist network The Outrage, the Caleres-owned brand debuted the limited-edition Callie heeled boots that spell out the words “VOTE” in capital letters on the toes. The boots are available now on Naturalizer.com and TheOutrage.com for $150, with a portion of proceeds going to She Should Run, a nonprofit that supports women running for office.
Nike announced in early August it was linking up with “Time to Vote,” a nonpartisan effort to increase voter participation. Since voting laws and procedures vary across the country — especially this year — Nike has made a broad commitment to the cause. “This may include paid time off on Election Day, making Election Day a day without meetings or providing resources for mail-in ballots and early voting,” the company said in the statement.
The department store launched a nationwide nonpartisan voter participation initiative dubbed Make Your Voice Heard. The effort — a result of feedback from more than 50,000 employees — aims to galvanize both its workers and customers to cast their votes in the 2020 election. Nordstrom has also partnered with nonprofits When We All Vote and the National Urban League to offer a virtual learning series, digital volunteer opportunities, curbside voter registration and a suite of online resources related to the 2020 Census, as well as voter registration, education and participation.
Old Navy announced on Sept. 1 — National Poll Worker Recruitment Day — that it will pay its store employees to work the polls on Nov. 3. The company, which currently employs roughly 50,000 associates at its more than 1,000 brick-and-mortar locations across the United States, said that the compensation will equal a full eight hours of pay. (Employees who serve are also eligible for compensation from their local jurisdiction.)
Reebok’s second shoe launched through First Pitch was the Concept 2 Club C “Vote” shoe, inspired by the right to vote. As part of the First Pitch process, Reebok asked for 500 commitments from fans before it would produce the shoe. The campaign launched at midnight on Aug. 20 and was fully funded by the following day. The sneaker featured shoelaces in three colors (red, white and blue), with the word “vote” spelled out on the heel tab.
Stacey Bendet x Lady Gaga
Stacey Bendet’s Creatively network and Lady Gaga’s Born This Way organization launched a campaign asking artists — including designers, animators, photographers and illustrators — to create a social-first campaign about voting. Creatives can submit their work here, through Sept. 24. The grand prize winner will get $10,000 and two finalists will each receive $2,500. Bendet told FN, “Our goal is straightforward and vital: Get out the vote –– in all ways possible –– for the November election, to elect candidates who will help build a kinder, braver, and more just world.” The voting campaign will run during October through Election Day.
Early this year, Madden launched an in-store campaign with Voto Latino to register young customers. Though the coronavirus halted some of those plans, the designer told FN other efforts are underway: “We will be shifting gears and focusing on digital efforts across all channels through November,” he said. “Safety at the polls and voter education will be a big part of that messaging, in addition to voter registration and how to vote by mail.” In addition, Steve Madden’s corporate U.S. offices will be closed on Nov. 3 so that employees have time to vote.
In late August, the New York footwear brand debuted a limited-edition version of its popular 5050 boot, a classic black style with the words “Vote” running down the back calf of each boot in a white interlocking font. Only 100 pairs are available, and 100 percent of the profits will go to the non-profit, non-partisan organization I Am A Voter, which supports nationwide voter participation.
Toms has partnered with Vote.org, a Black-led nonprofit dedicated to simplifying political engagement and increasing voter turnout. As part of their united effort, Toms launched a #VoteReady campaign on social media featuring employees talking about the importance of voting in the November election. And on Sept. 9, the brand will unveil a suite of tools on Toms.com, to help customers check their registration status, request an absentee ballot, see their state’s specific mail-in deadlines and sign up for election reminders.