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Fashion Brands Respond to Black Lives Matter Protests by Fundraising, Pledges for Change

The visceral response to the killing of George Floyd and others victims of police brutality is driving some fashion organizations, denim brands and streetwear designers to examine how they can help foster racial equality and social justice within their own companies and beyond.

As worldwide protest fill the streets in Los Angeles, New York City, Amsterdam, London, Paris and more amid the COVID-19 pandemic, players in the fashion sector are beginning to release statements about their next steps to help eliminate racism in the industry.

The CFDA recently announced it will create an in-house employment program specifically charged with placing black talent in all sectors of the fashion business to help achieve a racially balanced industry.

The program will be tasked with identifying black creatives and pairing these individuals with companies looking to hire. Mentorship and internship programs focused on placing black students and new graduates will take shape.

The organization stated that it will also make “immediate contributions and take up fundraising activities in support of charitable organizations aimed at equalizing the playing field for the black community.”

“We urge each and every member of the CFDA to take stock of their corporate structure to ensure that they have a racially balanced workforce and we challenge the retail sector of the fashion industry to ensure that their roster of brands and their product assortment is representative of the Black talent within the industry,” CFDA chairman Tom Ford wrote in a statement.

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In a blog post titled, “We Have Failed,” Noah cofounder Brendon Babenzien said he has neglected to check in with his team, which undermined their grief.

“Our belief at Noah is that admitting ignorance is the most intelligent thing you can do. It means you can accept that you don’t know everything and start building real knowledge,” he stated, adding that the company intends to “listen and activate” in order to play a role in driving positive change.

In a statement titled, “We Have Failed,” Noah cofounder Brendon Babenzien said he has neglected to check in with his team which undermined their grief.
Instagram: @noahclothing Instagram

“We want to publicly apologize for not being better leaders to our team and allies to all people of color who do not receive equal and fair treatment in our society. We are working with our team on programming that amplifies their voices and concerns as well as the voices and concerns of black people and people of color as a whole,” he stated.

In a separate statement, Noah cofounder Estelle Bailey-Babenzien said as a black woman in America she is “once again traumatized by the murders of black people at the hands of white supremacists and the people sworn to protect us.” However, she said it is a time for “enlightenment over denial” and urged non-black people to “be brave, spread the message, stand up, get involved, be heard.”

Brands are pivoting to fundraising to show their support as well. Following an $11,860 donation to the Black Lives Matter financial aid program, U.K. designer Samuel Ross of A-Cold-Wall announced the brand will give £2,500 grants (approximately $3,150) to 10 independent black-run businesses.

In an Instagram post, Ross said the grants will cover retail and fashion businesses as well as those in technology, urban planning, education, agriculture, engineering and more.

New York City-based technology firm Resonance announced last week the launch of Be Resonant, an initiative to “empower 10 black designers to build and launch their own fashion brands by August.

The collections will be powered by Resonance’s on-demand create.ONE platform, a proprietary cloud-based software platform that enables designers and brands to design, sell, and make one garment on-demand as efficiently as thousands. This no-minimum, no-excess-inventory approach to manufacturing allows independent designers to operate a sustainable business model.

Each brand will be given $50,000 in cash and services. Resonance will fund the sustainable manufacturing of all products. The online application is available beginning June 8. Resonance will select designers by the end of the month to begin creating in July. The products will launch in August.

These new funds follow an initiative created by Resonance client Pyer Moss designer Kerby Jean-Raymond to support minority- and women-owned small businesses during the COVID-19 crisis. The brand set aside $50,000 for companies to help make payroll and cover other expenses to keep their businesses afloat. The fund, according to the Pyer Moss Instagram, has ballooned to over $100,000.

Other brands are doing their part to support Black Lives Matter through donations and special product collaborations.

Supreme took to Instagram to acknowledge that the black community has “inspired and supported” the brand since day one. The streetwear brand said it donated $500,000 to Black Lives Matter, Equal Justice Initiative, Campaign Zero and Black Future Lab. “We stand in solidarity with the fight for justice and equality, and will continue to invest in the community,” the brand posted.

“Now is the time to organize, to plan, to come together with ideas we can all act on to make a better and more just world,” wrote Levi Strauss & Co. president and CEO Chip Bergh. In a letter published on the LS&Co. website, Bergh delivered a message on how the company stands with the black community and “condemns all forms of racism—from the violent to the casual to the political.”

The core values of “empathy, integrity and courage” compel the LS&Co. team to better its communities, he added. “We at LS&Co. are far from perfect,” Bergh wrote. “We have a lot of work to do internally and externally to live up to the ideals we cherish as a company.”

This work, he added, includes listening to black employees when they share their experiences and supporting groups that aid marginalized communities through the Levi Strauss Foundation. Along with providing a $100,000 grant to Live Free, which organizes local communities to curb gun violence and promote racial and economic justice, Bergh said the company will give a $100,000 grant to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) for work towards criminal justice reform.

Citizens of Humanity is using its new mask business as a way to raise money for social justice organizations. The brand will donate 100 percent of the retail selling price from e-commerce sales of masks on both the Citizens of Humanity and Agolde websites during the month of June. “Doing nothing is not an option,” the brand wrote on its website. “We urge everyone to do something peacefully.”

T-shirts are proving to be a popular source to make a statement and to raise funds for progressive organizations.

Stussy t-shirt
Stussy Stussy

Raleigh Denim Workshop has created Black Lives Matter T-shirts and will donate 100 percent of the shirt’s profits to the organization. “We’d like for our company to help amplify the voice of progress,” the brand posted on Instagram.

Fear of God founder Jerry Lorenzo teamed with a group of influential labels including Denim Tears, Noah, Pyer Moss, Off-White and more to release a limited-edition T-shirt with all money raised for the Gianna Floyd Fund, the daughter of George Floyd.

Denim Tears released the Cotton Peace charity tee, a $50 shirt with a quote from American novelist James Baldwin. Proceeds will be donated to the Know Your Rights Camp, providing resources for black and brown communities, including hiring defense attorneys for anyone arrested protesting police brutality.

Stussy released a tee with the statement, “End Racism Now.” The streetwear brand will split 100 percent of sales from the $40 shirt evenly between Black Lives Matter and Equal Justice Initiative. “If you don’t want a T-shirt, please give your money directly to these organizations,” the brand wrote on its website.

If you would like more information about where to donate for Black Lives Matter, Rivet has compiled a list of organizations accepting donations.

Policy reform organizations:

Black Lives Matter Global Network

American Civil Liberties Union

Bail out funds:

National Bail Out Fund Network

Victim memorial funds:

George Floyd Memorial Fund

I Run With Maud

James Scurlock Memorial Fund

Tony Mcdade Memorial Fund

David McAtee Memorial Fund

Justice for Breonna Taylor