Black Lives Matter Movement And Fashion: What Changed In 2020

Juliet D'cruz

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When togetherness was the motto even in the irony of social distancing worldwide in 2020, somewhere in the United States, George Floyd was killed while crying for his mother. Breonna Taylor was shot after enduring the shock of a forced entry into her own house, and there are many more whose stories haven’t even come to light. 

Behold, it gave birth to the most revolutionary movement at the start of the decade. The ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement against racial police brutality, and we can all confidently say, ‘It was a long time coming.’ 

The backdrop of this movement was also marking the uprising in another industry; fashion. 

Needless to say, that fashion has continued to be a weapon of uprising since Women’s Suffrage. 

The BLM movement was not an exception either when it came to using fashion as a weapon for revolt. 

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Hashtag Protest Dressing

‘Protest dressing’ became a trendy term with the dawn of the new revolutionary movement, Black Lives Matter. Although this is not a new concept, appropriate clothing for protest or boycotting clothing items for protest if we talk about the second wave of feminism has been a part of our history. However, it gained popularity with the Instagram news feeds. 

#BlackLivesMatter and #ProtestClothing are a few of the catchphrases that have come to our attention with this movement. Protest clothing means clothes that speak out in a crowd. Phrases like ‘Anti-Karen’ and ‘Black Pride’ became a part of the trendy pro-black apparel with the start of the third decade of the century. 

They weren’t restricted to sweatshirts and crop tops because the accessory fashion industry also contributed their share of support with BLM slogans. These were not just items of expression but also rippled a sense of togetherness among the protestors. 

Calling Out Racially Insensitive Acts Of Fashion Brands 

The saying goes, ‘when it rains, it pours.’ and the metaphorical rain of the Black Lives Matter also showered with the highlights of other problematic racial areas in the other parts of the fashion industry. Here are some of the brands whose racially questionable pasts were brought to light.

  • Prada 

Prada’s otto merchandise, which projects black characters with stereotypically black exaggerated red lips, has left the entire world open-mouth. Every socially aware person has been asking just this one question to the Italian brand, 

‘Aren’t you seeing what I am seeing?’ 

This blackfacing through caricaturish Pradamalia characters is enraging people because derogatory doesn’t even begin to describe this act. Prada did reply to thousands of Twitter threads by debunking the assumption of it being racist. Additionally, it has also voiced its intolerance towards racially discriminating behavior and assured that the company doesn’t condone any such behavior. 

  • Katy Perry Fashion 

In 2019 the American pop singer was accused of blackfacing her brand of sandals launched under ‘Katy Perry Fashion.’ The shoes came in both black and white; however, it’s the pattern that was causing waves of suspicion. It showed a pair of eyes, a nose, and very exaggerated overdrawn red lips. Perry was immediately called out for blackfacing. 

However, she apologized and was disheartened with the accusation, confessing that racial profiling was never her intention. The popstar also made sure that the shoes were withdrawn from the market so that no unintentional offense was projected towards the black community and her fans.

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  • H&M 

Some racially insensitive mistakes are unintentional and some are just being plain ignorant. At least, that’s how this ad campaign was perceived by the audience. In its 2018 campaign, H&M dispersed an advertisement with a black child wearing a hoodie with the slogan, ‘The Coolest Monkey In The Jungle.’ 

But that wasn’t all. In the next advertisement itself, another white child was shown wearing a hoodie with a different slogan that read, ‘Junior Tour Guide & Jungle Official Survivor Expert.’ People around the world were disgusted with the racially insensitive mixed meaning that those two messages projected. 

Although H&M apologized for its behavior, people were not pleased, accusing that the company should have rethought before distributing this slice of ignorance to the world. Even celebrity LeBron James raised questions against this behavior. 

Although it is disheartening to see such high-end fashion brands playing ignorant towards racial stereotypes, it is a relief to see them apologize to their audience. This showcases self-awareness for the companies and a stronger community that will not tolerate any such questionable actions from the fashion industry in the near future. 

Everything Wrong With Fashion Cultural Appropriation

Cultural appropriation, in simple terms, would be adapting cultural symbolisms without the proper knowledge of it. It is done for trend or aesthetics. For example, fashion cultural appropriation is the usage of black apparel without acknowledging the struggle behind it. Sometimes romanticized for the sake of beauty or, worse, capitalized. 

This has been a raging subject in all the media discussion after ‘Black Lives Matter.’ This just proves that we are not accepting of racial microaggression, which deems itself to be acknowledged but in reality, is just another backhanded white privilege ignorance. 

People haven’t stopped themselves from calling out celebrities for this. Some of the top names are Kylie Jenner for using cornrows as a hairstyle which is a popular black hair design. Her sister Kim Kardashian was also heavily criticized for blackfacing for her new make-up contour campaign. Similarly, Daniell Bregoli, aka Bhad Bhabie, also got her fair share of calling out when she was accused of ‘blackfishing’ over her social media. 

Appreciation Not Appropriation 

With the advent of Black Lives Matter, we are also seeing black designers emerging with astronomically beautiful designs worth every compliment. These are not just fashionably fabulous but what makes them unique is the touch of black culture that is sprinkled in them. 

The revolution has begun, and when speaking from the fashion side, support for these designers and black-owned brands is long due. Rather than imitating fashion while being blind and ignorant towards the culture surrounding it, how about we buy fashion merchandise from them to uphold a supporting hand in remembrance of the fallen.