How Can We Hold Fashion Brands Accountable to Their Social Media Posts About Anti-Racism?
This week, as millions of people around the world protest for Black Lives Matter on the street and through social media, many have called attention to the fashion industry's contribution to wide-spread racism. As brands stayed quiet or posted performative support messages without any donations, the disappointment from consumers and the truth about work experiences from many Black and POC employees started to come out.
From the corporate level to the factory and retail floor, stories about micro-aggressions and discrimination are forcing brands to look within their companies to see where they have fallen short. Some, like Reformation and Ban.do, have issued apologies from executive staff for racist behavior and hiring practices, and heads of companies have stepped down from their roles. Others like Pretty Little Thing and Dolls Kill have been on the receiving end of boycotts for how long it took them to respond to the movement and the lack of accountability to Black employees and customers.
It is certainly not a new phenomenon, but it seems like we're in a moment where real change can happen. As a consumer, outside of a social media post, it can be difficult to navigate how to create this change. That's where the #NoNewClothes pledge started by Ayesha Barenblat of Remake comes in. It's a 90-day call to action that seeks to empower people to hold brands accountable.
The campaign, which launched on June 1, asks the people who pledge to be cognizant of how they buy clothing for 90 days. It began as a way to call out brands for how garment workers have been treated during the COVID-19 crisis but is also a way to push for true anti-racism in fashion. It's an action that Barenblat says people can take to change the performative inclusiveness of the fashion industry and push for real changes.
"Right now, we’re seeing a lot of brands co-opting the Black Lives Matter movement to sell us more products while continuing to oppress and mistreat the Black and Brown people within their retail operations and supply chains. We are here to hold these brands accountable." Barenblat tells InStyle. She also said that while brands were condemning police brutality, many of their workers have been forced to protest for unpaid wages, putting them endanger of that very thing.
As brands are posting awareness about equity (and some opening up about shortcomings through the Pull Up For Change pledge), she explains, the most vulnerable Black and brown workers are still in danger. "Our Remake community is here to ensure that brands go beyond social media support or a one-time donation to #BLM. Most fashion brands have very little Black representation at the board and executive level and mistreat BIPOC workers from retail, warehouse to the factory floor," she said. "In the end, we the people hold power over brands and it is our purchases that will goad brands to do right by people and our planet."
Interestingly, #NoNewClothes doesn't mean you have to stop buying; it means you should be aware of your purchasing power. So, if you do want to purchase something, think about doing so from a Black-owned brand or a small business. Barenblat explains, "It’s a tough time for everyone, so we definitely encourage our community and those who are taking our pledge to support one another — whether that means purchasing gift cards for friends and loved ones from BIPOC brands and small businesses hurt during Covid-19 while taking the #NoNewClothes pledge. The #NoNewClothes pledge does not equate to 'no shopping.' Rather, the hope is that by refraining from purchasing new clothes over the next three months, pledge takers will become more aware of their consumption and habits, and to learn how to vote with their voices and wallets towards brands that mirror our values."
This is not an issue that will be fixed overnight, but its one that needs to change immediately, and Barenblat wants you to know that you can be a part of it. She explains, "This is a moment of reset. Going back to business as usual is not an option. We need to work together to build a more sustainable and just fashion industry that works for many rather than a few."
The #NoNewClothes campaign runs from June 1 to September 1. If this means purchasing from new brands during this time, here are two lists of Black-owned beauty and fashion brands you might want to consider. Or, if you're looking to put your money toward Black Lives Matter causes, here are ways to get involved.