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As Looting Ravages Retail, Denim Brands Address Racial Injustices on Social Media

Following months of depleted sales due to the novel coronavirus, and delicately balancing promotions with messages of “alone together,” denim brands and retailers now find themselves in the middle of civil unrest brought on by the police killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man in Minneapolis.

As protests broke out across the U.S. this weekend, several retail areas of Los Angeles became hotbeds for violent protests. Rioters pillaged Los Angeles’ Caruso-owned The Grove shopping center Saturday, looting Nordstrom and Apple stores. Rodeo Drive became a hotbed for rioters to swipe high-end goods from Alexander McQueen and Gucci. One of L.A.’s trendiest retail drags, Melrose Avenue, was ransacked. The vintage shop, Round Two, was wiped out, according to LA Magazine, as well as Adidas and Urban Outfitters.

G-Star Raw's storefront after a night of vandalism and looting in the SoHo.
G-Star Raw’s storefront after a night of vandalism and looting in New York City. Stephen Lovekin/Shutterstock

A police SUV was set ablaze in front of Denim Revival on West Third Street after a tense standoff between protesters and the Los Angeles Police Department, while many more were vandalized. The retailer could not be reached for comment.

And though many stores already had plywood or some other window protection in place to ward off looting during the pandemic, retailers in New York City faced devastating damage over the weekend. Nudie Jeans’ flagship on Bowery was among the first stores in lower Manhattan to have its windows shattered and merchandise looted by rioters Saturday night. Further west, the same happened to Diesel and G-Star Raw’s stores.

Urban Outfitters, Bloomingdale’s, Chanel, Versace, Louis Vuitton and more were also looted in the SoHo and Union Square areas.

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Diesel storefront in the SoHo.
Diesel storefront in New York City. Stephen Lovekin/Shutterstock

As retailers clean up and hunker down as more protests are expected, denim and fashion brands are taking to their corporate websites and social media to add their support to the black community and promote peaceful protesting.

“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.”

Bergh wrote: “America is burning because of the deep-rooted racism that is our nation’s most shameful legacy. The murder of George Floyd by four Minneapolis police officers was brutal and senseless, as were the recent killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and so many others before them. I am heartbroken for those individuals and the families and communities they were taken from. They deserved better. We have to be better.”

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.

Levi’s carried this message to Instagram, where a series of posts shared poignant quotes from executive sponsors of its Black Employee Resource Group, and encouraged followers to “use your voice this November.”

Standard & Strange closed its stores on Sunday in Oakland, Calif., and Santa Fe, N.M., in remembrance of Floyd and others “murdered as a result of systemic racism.” The retailer asked its followers on Instagram to donate whatever money they would have spent with them that day to the ACLU. Additionally, the retailer pledged to donate two percent of its total proceeds for all of May to the organization.

Other brands are sharing messages of unity and change, using Instagram posts as modern-day protest posters. Current/Elliott urged followers to sign a petition to hold those accountable for Floyd’s death. Feel Jeans stated that it “stands in solidarity with the fight against racism” and provided links to resources.

Citizens of Humanity wrote that “everyone must do something to fight injustice.” 7 For All Mankind posted a quote by Maya Angelou: “Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in the world, but has not solved one yet.” And Diesel adapted its brave campaign with a message: “Only the brave change the world. We see you. We won’t be silent.”

Mother Denim is taking a quieter approach. The brand announced Monday that it will be silencing its Instagram feed from June 1-7 to amplify the #BlackLivesMatter voices and movement. “We see you, we hear you [and] we are standing with you against systematic racism,” the brand stated.