An Open Letter to Fashion Brands and Empty Activism

Actualizado: 20 de jul de 2020


This past week has been especially difficult for the black community everywhere, and more specifically in the US. I hope this article finds you well and in good mental health. This is a safe space for all communities, remember that.  As the CEO and editor of ELOQUĒNTIA, I have stated as part of our policy that no author shall make good or bad publicity of any existing brands in their articles. However, on this very special occasion, I am taking the liberty of breaking my own rules. I have always had a strong commitment not only to sustainability, but also to other social movements, such as the fight for LGBTQ rights as an ally through The Open Space Global Fund, an association I helped build back in 2017. Because when it comes to supporting human rights, one needs to be vocal and consequent with their real actions. And some fashion brands have been not.  In the light of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, which is having incredible coverage in social media, several fashion brands have joined in to show their support. Others have stayed silent. Nike was one of the brands that chose to publicly show their support by uploading a one-minute video on Twitter and Instagram. It read “For once, Don’t Do It” at the beginning, referencing their famous slogan Just Do It. The brand has not stated – to this date – that they were making any kind of monetary donations to this cause. 

Some have argued that this famous sports brand is being hypocritical for supporting a movement that calls for justice and equality, only to then have most of their factories in countries like Thailand or Cambodia. The truth is that Nike has an incredible transparency portal, which is not common at all among big brands. It consists of an interactive map where you can see every country in which there is a Nike factory. Other data are also disclosed in this map, such as the type of product made in each factory or the average age of the workers. You can check it out here. Also, Nike’s code of conduct says that “the regular work week shall not exceed 48 hours” and “allow workers at least 24 consecutive hours of rest in every seven-day period”. You can also check their labour conditions in their supply chain here.  There is no doubt Nike is a very open company regarding their ethics. However, it is worth mentioning that there is not one black person on Nike’s executive leadership team, as you can check here. For a company that has made billions out of black sports people and consumer, they sure could be contributing to the problem they are currently calling out. “Don’t pretend there’s not a problem in America”, reads their message.  Other fashion firms have also spoken up about this issue. Marc Jacobs posted the following tweet on May 31 in apparent support of the black community. 

However, he was accused in 2016 of cultural appropriation when he used white models in dreadlocks on a catwalk row. He defended himself by arguing that “he does not see colour”, a rather dangerous and ignorant statement to make. He also stated the following on an Instagram comment: 

In a 2017 interview, he said that “Maybe I’ve been insensitive”. Perhaps the support he is now showing to that same community he attacked by saying that “we don’t say anything when black women straighten their hair” is not as sincere as you might think. His “apology” is not targeted at me, a white woman, so it is not up to me to evaluate his honesty.  On the other side, high fashion houses like Chanel, Fendi, or Valentino haven’t spoken up to this date. Louis Vuitton, Gucci, or Prada have released their own statements. For an industry that continuously profits off black culture, they surely could be doing a lot more for this cause. People are demanding them to post less and donate more. They are multimillion-dollar companies – an Instagram post isn’t enough help.  In the world we live in, where keeping a good reputation is essential for any business or brand (perhaps above everything else), it is easy to be fooled by empty displays of support that aren’t backed up by real actions. From ELOQUĒNTIA we encourage all of you to always make your research on the different transparency policies of each brand, big or small, and watch out for these types of marketing strategies.  Remember that words are meaningless without tangible results.  Much love and stay safe,  Gema Coello, CEO and editor of ELOQUĒNTIA Magazine

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