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Pride Month Fashion Falls Short Without Authenticity and Allyship

Though in-person Pride events around the world are scaled back due to the pandemic, apparel brands are finding other ways to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community this month with Pride collections and initiatives that provide support to organizations fostering equality and inclusion.

“All types of brands are beginning to offer Pride collections as consumers become more driven by social good and the incentive to publicize support of the LGBTQ+ community grows,” said Kristin Breakell, Trendalytics content strategist.

Indeed, there are clear peaks in occasion-based shopping around moments like music festivals, summer breaks and national holidays, according to Bridget Mills-Powell, Lyst content director.

Pride, she said, is becoming an important date on the calendar, “with more and more people wanting to express their inclusive values through optimistic and colorful fashion pieces.” Since the start of January, the global fashion search platform has registered an increase of 158 percent year-on-year for Pride-related merchandise, with collections by Adidas, Calvin Klein, Hunter, Converse, Dr. Martens, Ugg, New Balance and Levi’s among the brands with the highest demand.

Pride collections are most successful when they are authentic to the brand selling them, regardless of design, Breakell said. In recent weeks, TikTok users have been roasting Pride Month merchandise from large corporations and critiquing a phenomenon called “rainbow capitalism,” a term used to describe companies that cash in on Pride Month with products and marketing but do little to support and recognize LGBTQ+ people the remainder of the year.

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“Today’s consumer can see through performative marketing tactics and are more likely to support companies that advocate for the LGBTQ+ community year-round,” she said. Recent data by The NPD Group and CivicScience found that 21 percent of consumers surveyed stated that LGBTQ+ equality/inclusion influenced their decision to purchase when buying apparel, footwear or accessories, while 48 percent said they have not made a fashion purchase specifically because they did not support a brand or retailer’s social position.

Levi’s, however, is one brand that has a long-standing history of supporting the LGBTQ+ community. In 1992, Levi’s was the first Fortune 500 company to extend health benefits to same-sex partners. In 2007, it was the only California business to file an amicus brief with the California Supreme Court in support of same-sex marriage.

For Pride 2021, the heritage brand aims to encourage empathy and inclusivity with a new Pride collection that underscores the importance of learning and respecting proper pronoun use. The unisex collection features Levi’s classics such as Trucker jackets, denim shortalls, a canvas jumpsuit and tees with the phrase “they/them, she/her, he/him, we” on many of the garments. For the third consecutive year, all net proceeds from Levi’s Pride collection will go to OutRight Action International, an organization that works to advance the rights of LGBTQ+ people all over the world.

The company also teamed with Afterpay to curate a gender-free shopping experience on the “buy now, pay later” platform.

“We are proud to celebrate the LGBTQIA community each year with our Pride collection and by participating in Pride events across the globe,” said Jen Sey, Levi’s brand president. “We find it so important to see people as they want to be seen.”

And for other brands like premium denim brand Mavi, the hardships of 2020 signaled the need to amplify positive messages about inclusivity and acceptance. The brand introduced its first-ever Pride Collection this month benefitting the LGBTQI charitable organizations Ali Forney Center in the U.S. and Canada-based Egale Canada. Mavi will donate 100 percent of net proceeds to both organizations from June to August 2021. .

“At Mavi, our denim and our philosophy is built from a durable thread and a love that’s universal, and transcends race, class, and gender,” said Arkun Durmaz, Mavi North America president. “We believe in connecting with our community and celebrating our individuality by wearing our love directly on our bodies through the clothing we wear. We are thrilled to be partnering with Ali Forney Center and Egale Canada to spread optimism from the inside out, and by helping to bring together those individuals who need support the most, especially after a very tough year. Mavi is here to stand with all communities and to help celebrate the uniqueness of every single person that makes up these communities through the common thread of love.”

Though Pride collection promotions are fleeting, the financial support from their sales is intended to have a longer impact.

Alexander Roque, president and executive director of Ali Forney Center, said Mavi’s support is important in continuing the organization’s work and programming yearlong to protect and provide resources to homeless LGBTQIA+ youth in New York City.

As Canada’s leading organization for LGBTQI people and issues, Egale Canada executive director Helen Kennedy said the organization is excited to partner with the jean brand. “Mavi’s message of spreading joy, inclusivity and love aligns with our mission of promoting human rights and inclusion, and this partnership will further expand our reach as we celebrate,” Kennedy said.

This article and more appears in the summer issue of Rivet. Click here to download the issue.