Fashion meets social activism today via a line of politically-charged sweatshirts inspired by The Whitney Museum’s “An Incomplete History of Protest” exhibit.
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Created by celeb-favorite sweater brand Lingua Franca (you may remember their “I Miss Barack” hand-embroidered sweaters) in partnership with the museum and clothing label Stateside, the sweatshirts declare strong statements—one reading “give a damn,” and the other, “solidarity,”—in honor of the exhibition’s messages of protest and resistance.
Ahead, we caught up with Lingua Franca founder Rachelle Hruska MacPherson for the low-down on this collaboration and, more importantly, how fashion can affect change. Scroll through for our Q&A with MacPherson and shop the sweaters online at shop.whitney.org.
What prompted this collaboration?
When my friend and Whitney board member, Brooke Neidich, introduced me to Lauri Freeman (the manager of the shop in The Whitney), we immediately hit it off. The Lingua Franca offices are two blocks down from The Whitney Museum, and I've always been a huge fan and supporter of their programs. Brooke and Lauri have been giant supporters of LF and the women who hand stitch our knits. We have been trying to come up with ways to collaborate for about a year. When they launched their exhibition "An Incomplete History of Protest," I knew it was the perfect time for us to collaborate. I felt we (LF and The Whitney) were both celebrating those who use their voices to affect change in their communities and the culture at large.
Your brand has always been about saying something—why is this an important thing to do right now?
It's important for people to remember that they hold more power than they realize. People forget that their actions, even little ones like supporting a woman led startup and wearing a message of solidarity and resistance, can and do have a big effect. It's important to speak up and fight injustice when and where we can, even in seemingly small ways.
How can fashion affect change in our community?
I can only speak for my own company. Lingua Franca employs 45+ part time embroiderers who would otherwise be looking for work. We support organizations that we believe are helping make the world a better place and we are creating messages on our sweaters that, I feel, has an impact that resonates for all who see it.
Was there a moment in fashion history that inspired the collaboration?
The pieces in the Whitney's exhibition were really the main inspiration; however, I love how embroidery has historically been used by women artists as a play on the "women's work" nature of the medium. I feel our sweatshirts—each with their unique hand-embroidery—are really pieces of art in their own right, so having them sold in a major museum is totally thrilling.