As the U.S. continues to see protests and intense civil unrest across the country following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25 as well as the deaths of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery earlier in the year, designers and brands are beginning to take a public stance on the new era of a civil rights movement — a first for many, who remained silent when the Black Lives Matter movement began in 2014 following the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
On Saturday, the designer became one of the first of a white-led, major fashion brand to speak out. “What is happening in this country is not OK,” the designer wrote on his personal Instagram account. “What happened to George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery — and countless others — is not OK. We need action. To achieve change we have to be fearless in speaking out and standing up for what is right.”
The Tommy Hilfiger brand reposted the designer’s statement, adding to it that “Together with our parent company PVH, we will be making donations to organizations that support the fight against social injustice,” the brand’s Instagram post stated. The company also announced that it would be evolving its Fashion Frontier Challenge to become a platform for cultivating minority entrepreneurs in the fashion industry.
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But it has been the personal designer statements, most of which have been made on Instagram, that have given a more intimate take on the current unrest — and have set an example for how individuals can speak out.
The designer and activist posted a message of support on his Instagram account on June 1, and shared with FN a more detailed statement:
“For over 35 years, we have sought to make a meaningful difference in people’s wardrobes as well as in their communities. We have looked to shine a light on not just what people stand in, but also what they stand for; not just what’s on their bodies, but also what’s on their minds. I am grateful for the platform the industry has given to me and I feel compelled to speak up for individuals who have had their basic civil liberties compromised. Our brand has also always stood for equality, and raised awareness for social justice. As I recently said, “YOU’RE NOT BETTER THAN ME. I’M NOT BETTER THAN YOU. WE’RE ALL BETTER THAN THAT.”
“Racism goes much deeper than hate and we all need to actively fight it. There comes a time when silence is betrayal” wrote designer Ada Kokosar on her personal Instagram account, showing a video of Rihanna giving an acceptance speech at the 2020 NAACP Image Awards in February, where she urged the audience to encourage unity and allyship (“Tell your friends to pull up,” she said).
“White people have the responsibility today,” wrote designer Chloe Gosselin. “By standing up, being vocal, signing petitions, calling officials, doing peaceful protests — but most of all we are responsible to educate our children!” wrote the mother of two.
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I have posted this picture before… our hearts have been broken before… then we go back to our lives and the injustice continues. White people have the responsibility today, to be a big part of that change. By standing up and be vocal, signing petitions, calling officials, doing peaceful protests etc but most of all we are responsible to educate our children! “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” #NelsonMandela #blacklivesmatter #strongertogether #justiceforgeorgefloyd #raisedwithlove
“I typically withdraw from social media when tragedy is happening around us, but I feel compelled to talk about this,” wrote Salvatore Ferragamo creative director Paul Andrew on his personal Instagram account. “This is definitively not the time to recluse about racism; this is the time to speak up and acknowledge that racism exists, no matter how uncomfortable that makes people feel,” he wrote.
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I typically withdraw from social media when tragedy is happening around us, but I feel compelled to talk about this. This is definitively not the time to recluse about racism; this is the time to speak up and acknowledge that racism exists, white privilege exists, no matter how uncomfortable that makes people feel. Feeling uncomfortable is nothing compared to the fear, anger and discrimination that so many black people feel on a daily basis. This is so much bigger than people feeling uncomfortable. This is about black lives being important, black lives being worthy, black lives being respected and black lives being protected. We need to speak up about racism and to spread awareness. We need change and justice. You were not born racist! Please don’t die racist. “No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than it’s opposite.“ Nelson Mandela I’m sorry this took so long for me to post. #BlackLivesMatter
“From an early age, I discovered the differences of skin color,” wrote the designer on his brand’s Instagram account. “As a kid, I could see and feel that I was darker than most of my school mates but it didn’t matter to me at the time. Much later I discovered this sadly powerful hate which is called Racism.”
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From an early age, I discovered the differences of skin color… As a kid, I could see and feel that I was darker than most of my school mates but it didn’t matter to me at the time. Much later I discovered this sadly powerful hate which is called Racism. I was now an adolescent and it blew my head and froze my blood when I was shouted at and called "you little black faggot." I could only shout back “So what, f-you” before I was forced to run, fast, if I didn’t want to be caught and probably assaulted. This was the first time I had to feel a portion of what so many people are living through in their lives and so many have died from. As @willsmith has said: “RACISM IS NOT GETTING WORSE, IT’S GETTING FILMED.” BLACK LIVES DO MATTER I chose with my work to express that skin and their various tones should not create differences, we all have a unique skin tone and this is what makes life beautiful but as long as skin color remains an issue, we shall have to fight the lowest form of misery which should no longer exist, under any form or excuse: Racism. #BLACKLIVESMATTER
“I’m as horrified as everyone, poor man, it’s tragic. Racism boils down to injustice by the rulers of the world. We don’t have democracy. At the protests: wear your mask, keep your distance. A long march is going to be very effective,” wrote the designer on her brand’s Instagram account on Monday.
“If you’re a racist, unfollow me. If you don’t care about what’s happening, unfollow me,” wrote Atwood on Monday.
We will be updating this story as more designers speak out.