Westminster Bridge Road, London, UKinstagram/blmuk

The word ‘fashion’ is based on an inherent impermanence; synonyms including ‘trend’, ‘vogue’, ‘craze’ and ‘fad’ arise from a quick Google search. An obvious result of this toxic relationship between fashion and impermanence is the seasonal system, fashion weeks ensure that designs will have their moment of relevance before a lifetime of antiquity. Although at last, this relationship finally seems to be on its way out; Yves Saint Laurent has announced the disbanding of their iconic open-air show in Paris, followed by Alessandro Michele taking Gucci “seasonless”, pledging to show collections only twice a year rather than the standard five.

In practise, these preliminary moves are taking huge amounts of money and power away from the idea of ‘fashion’ by the definition above, making a step towards the understanding of what we might term ‘style’. This is significant not only for its environmental impacts, which are obvious and major, but also as the beginnings of a greater reform in the mindset and attitude of this industry. ‘Style’, used often with ‘personal’ as a prefix, suggests something distinctive and cumulative about garments and wardrobe choices. Style is something intrinsic, a mean average of choices made over a period of time.

Unfortunately, the same could be used to describe systemic racism. The fashion industry’s aversion to fully assimilating the idea of sustainability and ‘style’ over trends and ‘fashion’ is due to its desire not to examine their own personal ‘style’; the practices and systems they choose to use everyday, which are undoubtedly racist.

In recent weeks, the usual chic minimalism of the fashion industry’s collective social media output has been restricted to sterile monochrome. Apologetic statements written in white, bold text against black backgrounds have flooded feeds, creating the illusion that the Black Lives Matter movement has made a long-deserved mark on these brands. A small patch of blue sky in the oppressive fog of systemic racism in fashion. But how long until it clouds over again?

Condé Nast is under continued scrutiny for their internal behaviors towards Black employees, particularly Anna Wintour herselfinstagram/diet_prada

Social media has created a culture of imitation between brands, catapulting trends (like tie-dye and the circular handbag) far out of reach of the capabilities of any monthly magazine. It is telling to know that, just like tie-dye and the circular handbag, that last sentence is going to age very, very quickly. Not in twenty years, or even in one year, but in a matter of months. When this is the pattern, what difference does it make if the images dominating our feeds are of oversized blazers in every neutral colour or if they are black squares? Could the black square for Black Lives Matter just be another move in fashion’s imitation game - a trend overshadowed as soon as the next one appears? It may seem like the importance of anti-racism work has made itself heard. These brands hold the power to cause seismic shifts in systems and practices, but given the fickle nature of the industry sustained change won’t be easy.

Whilst highlighting Gucci as a brand that is leading the charge on this march towards sustainability, it must be pointed out that they have been one of the many perpetrators of cultural appropriation in their designs only last year. As much as they would have liked the incident to have been a failed “creative project”, forgotten with the influx of a new season, it was instead received as a peeling corner of the wallpaper concealing systemic racism. The brand, like the rest of the industry, obviously has a long way to go in terms of anti-racism work; diversifying their executive, championing Black designers and models could be a start. But it seems that perhaps the lingering consequences of their past mistakes has triggered an acceptance of longevity. Through these mistakes, they seem to have figured out that garments and political movements alike are entitled to more than their one week of fame.

instagram/diet_prada

It would seem that, as is usual practice, luxury brands could be signposting the next phase of the industry. A simultaneous shift in how we view both clothing and activism from seasonal interests to sustained staples should be on the horizon. Just as shapes, colour palettes and materials have always trickled down into streetwear and fast fashion, so can there be hope that this change in attitude travels in the same direction. This movement cannot be another trend for brands to capitalise upon and see who can post the most photos featuring the one Black model on their books. Once the black squares have sunk to the bottom of Instagram feeds, what will be at the top of their feed and the top of their agendas?


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Consumers must hold brands accountable to not dismiss this movement as ‘fashionable’. Nationwide protests are not to be taken as temporary outbursts; the showing of a Spring-Summer collection which shall be replaced by normal programming come Autumn, they are marching far further than a catwalk. Placards are emblazoned with messages that cannot just be tried on to keep up with ‘fashion’, but values that must be actively worn every day, becoming an intrinsic part of our personal ‘style’. The staple piece of now and forever? Anti-racism.

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