Do These Fashion Brands Really Care About George Floyd and RacismOr Their Public Image?

Following George Floyds death and nationwide protests, fashion brands made vague statements about racism on social mediaand then got shamed into doing something more active.

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When the coronavirus pandemic began, companies started running ads to assure us that they cared. YouTube compilations spliced together messages from Budweiser, Uber, and Walmart promising that we were all in these uncertain times together, and it was downright heroic to pay your Verizon bill.

The inequitable and brutal treatment of Black people must stop, Shopbop, owned by Amazon, posted. Shopbop stands in solidarity with the Black communityour employees, our customers, and our partnersin the fight against systemic racism and injustice. No information was provided on how Shopbop plans to implement such a vague pledge.

The retailers message was written in white font over a black background. Using a very similar layout, LOral Paris issued a statement that read, Speaking Out is Worth It. (The brand will also donate $150,000 to the NAACP)

FUCK YOU, replied Munroe Bergdorf, a black trans model fired by the company in 2017 after speaking out against racism in the wake of the Charlottesville violence.

As protests from Minneapolis spilled into New York streets on Friday, when 200 people were arrested in Brooklyn and scenes of brutality against protesters and journalists were broadcast live, Louis Vuitton launched a new handbag. The luxury brand only noted the unrest Sunday evening, posting a video with the caption, MAKE A CHANGE. FREEDOM FROM RACISM TOWARDS PEACE TOGETHER.

Essie, which sells nail polish, was also unclear in its posturing. four years ago, we founded a day to celebrate color, a statement said in lower case font. today, we stand in solidarity and know that our colors go beyond nail polish. we stand for equality, inclusivity, and connecting the world through colortoday and every day.

So are you donating? commenters asked.

This propelled an additional statement, written in the same type but over a black background instead of a gray one. It read, thank you to our loyal followers for speaking up. we hear you, and agree that our language of solidarity to the black community was not strong enough. #blacklivesmatter. (The brand also allocated an unspecified donation to the NAACP.)

Hey Dominique, can you let corporate know that the country is on fire and Black Lives Matter? Thanks, Eguavoen wrote. Later, the Lane Bryant account threw up a statement pledging a donation to the NAACP. (The team did not respond to a request for comment.)

As Vogue noted today, many smaller companies donating to Black Lives Matter and various bail funds were already in the throes of financial turmoil due to the coronavirus.

So, moves by the likes of Glossier ($500,000 to various organizations, another $500,000 for grants to black-owned companies) are more than gestural. But as my Google promotion inbox fills with subject lines like A Heartfelt Message, what should be solidarity messages read more like advertising copy.

Diarrha NDiaye is a social strategy and brand consultant who works in the beauty industry. This weekend, she saw the organic makeup company RMS Beauty post about a limited edition probiotic release while ignoring the Black Lives Matter movement.

Your Black and Brown customers are tired, hurting and devastated, NDiaye wrote in a comment. Were waiting for you to SHOW UP.

Rose-Marie Swift, the makeup artist behind the brand, replied, In all fairness, we did not know there is an expectation [sic] date for showing support and our team will be in the office Monday 9: 00 est. We feel the exact same way as you all do. All love no hate. It was punctuated by a white thumbs up and heart-eye emoji.

The exchange was swiftly called out on various beauty industry social media accounts. Within the next two days, the brand would post an apology for the statement and additional cartoon of a white and black person embracing. A tiny cursive Black Lives Matter was placed underneath. (Representatives for RMS Beauty did not respond to ishonests request for comment.)

As an influencer who has posted [RMS Beauty] looks, I felt compelled to say, I would love to see what you can do to see us, because we always see you, NDiaye said. The response is definitely a disappointment.

I actually enjoy going to Sephora and playing and applying makeup to my skin, and I feel seen when the colors pop. Im genuinely happy, NDiaye added. Wow, this brand sees my existence and values me as a customer. But you cant bet on the bond when its not both ways.

She said that she does not believe in cancel culture. But I do believe in the power of the dollar and the influence that we have, NDiaye said. If a brand does not do the work, they dont get the merit. For me, merit means dollars. We cant give you that currency and power if you havent done the work.

The funniest part is, you dont lose anything from being a diverse company, NDiaye said. When you create a safe space, anyone can take part. Youll make more money as a brand with that purchasing power.

Aurora James, a designer and creative director of the shoe label Brother Vellies, created the 15 Percent Pledge, which calls on major retailers to give that amount of shelf space to black-owned businesses. (Fifteen percent of the United States population is black.)

Shes calling on Whole Foods, Target, Walmart, Sephora, Saks, Net-a-Porter, Barnes and Noble, and Home Depot to take part. James hopes her 15 Percent Pledge will deliver more money to Black communities.

I think now what were seeing is a lot of brands feel like they have to post something because they dont want to get called out for not posting something, James said. A lot of what theyre posting is vague. Maybe theyre making a donation. Now Im at that point where that needs to be followed up with the question: How much?

There is nothing wrong with a brand clarifying their morals and values, but James wonders what more can be done. Im definitely a Yes, and person, she said. Sure, maybe you posted something that was a repost of something you saw that resonated with you. But I also want to hear from those companies: What real change are you making? Are the people in your design team, in your office, in your C-Suite people of color?

Sherri Williams, PhD, an assistant professor in race, media, and communication at American University, prefers to call large fashion and beauty brands what they arecorporations.

Weve started to see the commodification of LGBTQ individuals by corporations, Professor Williams said. This one month, theyll support them, attend parades and events. But after that, where are these companies? Thats my question right now during this uprising. We see social media posts, but once protesters and organizers shift attention from the streets and work in other ways, where will these companies be?

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