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Voices of BLM in Fashion

The fashion world is not separated from the rest of the world. Neither is it a shallow, meaningless part of it. As I’m writing this I’m not looking to make an issue of life and death all about fashion. But I’m asking those of you, who are normally invested in fashion, to look into how the fashion world is acting now, how it has acted before and how racism and white supremacy is deeply rooted in the fashion world as well as the rest of the world. And I’m asking you to keep this in mind during all your future actions in fashion and as a consumer. As a fashion writer myself, it is my duty of course to write about this too.

The fashion industry holds great power, both when it comes to the materialistic aspects and when it comes to changing public attitudes and pushing boundaries. And with great power comes, of course, great responsibility. A responsibility I hope we all are aware that the fashion industry has often failed to take. Racist scandals and lack of diversity are unfortunately commonplace, and no matter how unconsciously invested you are in the fashion industry, it is something you should never look past or avoid holding the industry accountable for. What happens in fashion is not limited to a clothing rack, its effects stretch way further than that.

So, as more people are finally starting to react, and hopefully also act, isn’t it welcomed that the fashion world are doing so too? Well, yes. Action is by all means vital. But what happened to George Floyd has happened to a countless number of black people before him. What is going on, not only in America, but everywhere, is nothing new. So remember. Remember which brands and actors in the fashion world have never previously been vocal about racism, and never previously worked to dismantle racist structures. Notice which ones are still silent. And as brands post on social media, notice which ones are actually raising awareness, donating and sharing valuable information and which ones are writing short statements with their logo attached, lacking information regarding actual measures they will take. Notice which ones are using their platform to contribute to changing the situation, and notice which ones are using the situation to change the attitudes around their brand name and grow their platform. And consider this when you spend your money.

The last thing I have to say is: listen. Listen to black people, educate yourself and make sure your words and social media posts can be reflected in your real life actions. I’m not the one whose words should be valued in this, so here comes voices from some of the black people in fashion you should actually listen to, now and always (I expect you to have done research on this topic in general, outside of fashion, already. If you haven’t it’s about time. And if you haven’t acted it’s about time too. This article will be ended with useful links on how to do so):

Duckie Thot (@duckie_thot), model, on Twitter:

‘The fashion industry needs to do more!! Yall literally use me to promote your products. Your silence aint it. I want to see the support.

Apply pressure!!! Make them un fucking comfortable.’

Dione Davis (@dionemdavis), styling director at Tibi, on Instagram:

‘I just want to say to some photographers and artists that I have on my feed, I really want you guys to look inwards as well while you are trying to find ways to assist in combating racism in this country. I think it’s really important for you to look at your own work and see how the Eurocentric standard of beauty and white supremacy has affected your own personal aesthetic, and I want you guys to do some research and figure out how you can fix that in your own work and promote diversity in a respectful manner.’

Paola Mathé (@findingpaola), founder and creative director of Fanm Djanm, on Instagram:

‘Black culture has always been more appreciated than black lives. Go to any white ‘upscale’ party or college party. Everyone is dancing to the music. Luxury companies use quotes from black rappers in their marketing. They know the lyrics to every song. Yet most are silent when a black person gets murdered or lynched by white people. White people talk about looting and violence from black people when this country was built on these two things. You say ‘you’re shocked’ when what you really mean to say is that you are privileged enough to have continued to ignore an issue that has affected an entire race for decades in your country. How are you shocked when these things happen so often? […] You say you are sorry. But what we really need for you to do is to put your time money, and resources where your mouth is. Sorry doesn’t cut it anymore’

@whatevawears, fashion blogger, on Instagram:

‘As pressure has mounted, it is clear that a lot of the vocalisation is due to people feeling obligated to post, this is blatant. As risk to reputation has become greater, we know that those worried about their image have felt compelled to pipe up. I am not saying this is all of you! Many have admitted to prior ignorance and this is important if things are to improve. But hollow words and empty gestures will be painfully obvious going forward. […] We’ll know it was not genuine when we see you attend another press trip with a single token black influencer, or your follow Fridays go back to being exclusively white. We’ll notice when you continue to support brands and companies that operate overwhelmingly within the bounds of Eurocentric beauty standards, and offer no material support for BLM initiatives. So make it clear that speaking out isn’t a one time thing. Use your voices! You guys already have a seat at the table. It is up to you to open up that door for the rest of us, so that we might sit beside you.’

Nicole Ocran (@nicoleocran) , fashion blogger, on Instagram:

‘They try to tell you that ‘it’s different now’ but the actions of other people tell you differently. What is different about this graphic video of George Floyd losing his life underneath a police officer’s knee? What about Eric Garner? What about Micheal Brown? What about Alton Sterling? What about Sandra Bland? What about Philando Castile? What about Ahmaud Arbery? What about Breonna Taylor? And it goes on. And on. Brands are putting out blanket, wishy-washy, meaningless Instagram posts and ads to prove that they’re not racist when they don’t employ black people to the highest levels of their companies. Black people are not sitting in their marketing, social or PR teams. We’re barely seen on their feeds or at their events or in their offices but now they want to give vague statements on diversity and inclusion or wishy-washy statements about POC and how we are all one. We aren’t. We are Black. When we say Black, we mean Black. But they’re now seeing us talk about this – like we have been for the last FOUR HUNDRED YEARS – and decide ‘Oop! Time to tell people we’re not racist!’. You can say you aren’t racist all you want. What are your ACTIONS telling us? If you aren’t saying right here and now that BLACK LIVES MATTER then stop talking.’

These are just a few (and there is much more you should read on their Instagrams) of the important voices of people speaking up that you should listen to. Support them, do your own research, listen more, learn more and act more.

You can immediately sign the petition ‘Justice for George Floyd’ here, and after that visit this website to find lists of other important petitions, lists of where to donate (for example without money, just by watching this video and more ways to actually help.

Black lives matter. Do your part.

Cornelia Falknäs

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