Charlottesville Awakens Top Voices in Fashion

Charlottesville Awakens Top Voices in Fashion

Recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia have forced leading figures in the fashion industry to speak out against bigotry and hatred.

Recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia have forced leading figures in the fashion industry to speak out against bigotry and hatred.

Text: Cassidy Morrison

Last week, the world’s attention turned to the astounding events in Charlottesville, Virginia. White supremacists clashed with counter-protestors including Black Lives Matter advocates. The next day, a car plowed into a mass of counter-protestors, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer.

President Trump’s initial refusal to denounce the white supremacists, neo-Nazis and Klansmen created a domino effect of businesses leaving his Manufacturing Council, which was dissolved. Executives across industries rebuked Trump’s remarks and condolences for victims, calling his words too little, too late. Until Thursday’s terror attacks in Spain, top voices in the fashion industry remained relatively quiet. But following Thursday’s attack in Barcelona, many designers sent internal memos to staff or posted to social media.

Mark Parker, chief executive officer of Nike, Inc., wrote a letter to his global staff, reading: “Like many of you, I have spent this past week shocked and saddened by the violence and hatred we saw in Charlottesville. The news has been incredibly difficult to see, and I know I have not been alone in feeling this way. There is no place—none—for the kind of bias, bigotry, and violence committed by white supremacists in Virginia. Our hearts go out to the families and everyone touched by this tragedy."

Parker added, “What happened in Charlottesville isn’t just morally shameful; it goes against everything we stand for."

In his own heartfelt expression, Ralph Lauren drew on his family’s personal experiences: “For me America has always been a country built on freedom and liberty for all. That’s why my parents came here and were so proud to become American citizens and then to pass that special privilege on to their children. Almost 50 years ago I started my company built on those American values I learned growing up. Today with almost 25,000 employees all over the world, we all share the same vision by accepting and celebrating our unique diversity and equality. These are not just American values, but the values of all good people seeking an authentic way of life for themselves and their families. These are the values that we are all committed to, that inspire me and always will.”

Diane Von Furstenberg and Zac Posen both captured the feelings of many in powerful Instagram posts.

love to love

A post shared by Diane von Furstenberg's diary (@therealdvf) on

Virgil Abloh, founder and creative director of Off-White shed light on what many in the fashion industry must be thinking: what now? How must creative people proceed? He hinted that recent events shook him and would, without a doubt, influence his future designs.

"I too feel it's very important that artists and creatives respond to their surroundings they feel most passionate about. The events in Charlottesville are very jarring. For me as a creative I can say it's having an effect on how I see the world which subsequently will affect future collections."

As Steven Kolb, president and chief executive officer of the CFDA said, “Fashion has a powerful voice and I know that as an industry, we stand on the side of tolerance, acceptance and diversity.”

Fashion is quickly becoming more adept at navigating politics, from “We should all be feminists” tee shirts by Dior to Dolce & Gabbana offering a haut couture hijab. However, only time will tell how current events spark widespread change in collections across the industry. We have merely turned on the faucet to release a trickle of water. Now, designers appear ready to open the flood gates.



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