2020 has been...well, let’s just say it has been transformative, in each and every single possible definition of the word. I can’t believe that somehow seven whole months have gotten away from me, because the days all seem to meld together when you’re spending them in the house. It’s like one day I woke up in Washington DC and the next I was self-quarantining in Los Angeles. Literally. And so, in the wake of COVID-19 and protests across the country and social distancing and reopening plans and a host of other ways in which the universe has brought to our attention the dormant issues that stand, glaringly now, for us to correct, here are a few things happening, right now, amidst all other things, in beauty and fashion.
Can you believe it’s already the seventh month of 2020?
Neither can I.
Anyway. Here are seven (timely, right?) things happening right now.
Introducing: The 15% Pledge
Despite the cute Instagram videos and the nice ads and the blackout posts by large corporations to express their support of Black lives in the wake of protests erupting across the country, consumers have called for more concrete methods of support, i.e., “how about you put your money where your mouth is.”
This pledge was created by Aurora James, a Canadian fashion design and founder of accessories brand Brother Vellies, who openly challenged retailers to pledge 15% of their shelf space to products made by Black-owned companies in order to show support for and solidarity to their Black consumers, employees, and Black-owned businesses in general. Sephora, which is owned by the luxury goods company LVMH, was the first major retailer to sign onto the pledge, with Credo Beauty and Rent the Runway, among others, following suit. Notably absent from this list are names like Walmart, Target, Kroger, and Ulta Beauty.
The silence is deafening.
But, anyway. I digress. You can read more about Sephora’s pledge and initiative here.
Glossier’s Grant Initiative for Black Beauty
While we’re still talking beauty, and the economic impact of corporate support, Glossier must be noted for being one of the first to not only publicly voice their verbal and financial support of the Black Lives Matter, but to acknowledge their privilege within the beauty industry. On May 30th, the brand took to social media to announce their donations of $500,000 to organizations combating racial injustice, and another $500,000 in the form of grants to Black-owned beauty businesses. Their founder, Emily Weiss, explained on the company’s blog, “When Glossier launched in 2014, we were fortunate to be one of the rare female-founded businesses to successfully raise venture capital; that year, only 3.1% of venture dollars raised by U.S.-based companies went to women,” she wrote. “We are also keenly aware that a Black woman with the very same vision likely would not have received the same support. Black consumers wield an enormous amount of purchasing power, yet Black women have received only .0006 percent of the $424.7 billion raised in venture capital since 2009.”
Bridging the Gap with BeautyUnited
Created in response to COVID-19’s impact on the beauty and wellness industry, BeautyUnited is now offering a mentorship program to promote Black and Indigenous representation within this industry. Much like Glossier, BeautyUnited has acknowledged the disparity of Black-owned companies. According to DigitalUndivided’s biennial ProjectDiane report, of companies that raised more than $130 billion through venture capital, less than 1% of that money goes towards Black female founders since 2009. Applications are due on July 10th. First, make sure you qualify, and then apply for the grants here!
Ralph Lauren Meets Phi Beta Sigma
After appropriating the Greek letters of Phi Beta Sigma, a historically significant Black fraternity, Ralph Lauren has apparently joined forces with the organization, in order “to promote deeper understanding and increased representation of Black and African American communities in fashion,” according to a statement released on the fraternity website.
Ralph Lauren has since removed the pants, which sold on their French site for 299.99€
Roseann Lynch, the Executive Vice President, Chief People Officer, Global People and Development from Ralph Lauren Corporation told Watch the Yard:
“We recognize the opportunity to deepen cultural understanding and respect within the fashion industry and look forward to expanding this critical work in our business and more broadly, together with Phi Beta Sigma.”
More updates on that, later.
On June 28th, under the pseudonym #BlackFemaleAnonymous, a group of Essence Magazine employees posted to Medium, an editorial exposing allegations of sexual harassment, colorism, pay inequities, and workplace toxicity, calling for the resignation of CEO, Richelieu Dennis--former CEO of hair care brand SheaMoisture--among others. Yesterday, he resigned, considering the scathing allegations. For a magazine devoted to speaking to and uplifting Black women, Dennis was reported to have had a “surface-level commitment to Black women,” but that he is actually “driven by greed and a debaucherous sexual appetite.”
The editorial also alleged that “he has a history of sleeping with women on the Sundial staff [the beauty brand that produces SheaMoisture, and which he sold to Unilever in 2017] … For the women who don’t seemingly consent, he openly sexually harasses them at private company events.”
Essence has since responded with Caroline Wanga stepping in as interim CEO amidst the backlash.
COVID-19 & The People Who Actually Make Our Clothes
The recent pandemic has exposed a number of companies for the greed and exploitation that has historically been the foundation of the fashion industry. Retailers, due to the excesses of clothes produced to closed storefronts, have cancelled billions of dollars worth of orders' many that have already been completed. Large retailers have cancelled or suspended orders up to $1.3 billion in Bangladesh alone, affecting over 4 million workers overnight. Some garment factories have been shut down indefinitely.
In turn, workers around the world are going hungry, and, according to a recent article by FashionUnited, millions of garment makers have lost their jobs as a result of the virus and have no access to social or financial safety nets--like unionizing--that would help them sustain their livelihoods.
Just some of the major brands causing this damage include:
Kendall + Kylie
For more ways to support the Bangladeshi garment workers (and others around the world), click here.
As you know, this blog is for all things beautiful and unapologetically colorful within the beauty and fashion industries. As you know, both of these industries, like many others, are both predominantly and notoriously white. As alluded to in some of the “six things” mentioned above, I can write an article about the struggles Black men and women fight daily in corporate America, but then again, I can write an entire thesis about how microaggressions and disparities within an office are only a microcosm of a much greater system; about how systemic racism and sexism have allowed the mistreatment and mutilation and harm of Black bodies.
To this day, there still have been no arrests made for the murder of Breonna Taylor, an EMT murdered in her own home by police who believed hers to belong to two “drug dealers” in a drug raid.
So, I interrupt my own post to remind everyone that the officers who murdered Breonna Taylor still walk free, and I wanted to remind everyone that too often do beautiful Black women find themselves the victim in these situations. Breonna is not the only victim of a hate crime, but her name has brought a new attention to a much greater issue. Her name has reminded us that the battle is ongoing; that just because 15% of Sephora’s brands will be Black-owned, racism has not been abolished in this country.
And, it starts here. We need to protect Black women in all spaces, from the boardroom to police custody. It starts with demanding justice for people in all places. Breonna can’t be the only Black woman to receive our support. Why not advocate for equality everywhere; for the Black men and women sitting alone in the boardroom; for the Black men and women everywhere; for all Black men and women beside us right now? We have to invest more than sympathy and curiosity into each other to create change. We rallied for justice for George Floyd despite social distancing and the fears of COVID-19 spreading. Let’s continue that same fight for the men and women who haven’t made the news. Let’s continue that fight so we no longer have to turn Black names into posthumous hashtags.
Protect Black Bodies!
Protect Black Women!
Protect ALL Black Women!
Thank you. :)