Human rights

Fashion seeks closer ties with human rights and environmental activists – WWD

LONDON – In the face of an ongoing global pandemic, climate crisis and social unrest, fashion brands today are not only encouraged, but expected, to respond to global issues and use their platforms to promote more than just products.

To do this – and ensure they remain relevant – brands have started rubbing shoulders with environmental, humanitarian and gender activist groups.

Shows, events, retail operations and big business can still be interrupted by the guerrilla tactics of climate activists, but these same activists are welcomed into luxury homes – to walk the catwalks, appear in campaigns and shouting out the causes on the brands widely followed platforms.

Greta Thunberg appeared on the front cover of Vogue Scandinavia in August; Stella McCartney invited members of Extinction Rebellion to participate in its Fall 2019 campaign, and poet and activist Kai-Isaiah Jamal narrated a poem for Vivienne Westwood’s recent Earth Day film.

Black Lives Matter social activist and activist Janaya Khan took part in the Gucci Love Parade in Los Angeles as a new generation of content creators, who are using their platforms to educate about climate change rights, man or the fluidity of genres, are concluding a growing number of brand agreements.

This marriage of fashion and activism is set to reach new heights in 2022 as consumers, investors, and policymakers pay increasing attention to how companies plan to deliver on all sustainability and equity commitments. ‘they took throughout the pandemic.

“2021 has been the year that many fashion brands have talked about making changes, and 2022 must be the year that they deliver on those promises and commitments. They will need to take stock of how they are delivering to investors and examine the strength and speed of their track record. It’s a time when brands should be saying, ‘Let’s rewrite the rules,’ said Anita Balchandani of McKinsey & Co.

For brands, there is a clear benefit to rewriting the rulebook and leaving activists who would usually boycott – or protest outside – their shows in their world. It keeps brands relevant in today’s climate, enables them to meet the expectations of the younger generation of consumers and gain new perspectives.

“I think 2022 will be the year when interprofessional dialogue will accelerate. There are sectors and industries that are light years ahead of fashion, and the fashion industry can learn a lot from. True collaboration and learning will not come from creating another coalition, pact or manifesto, but from active working groups that together invest in pilot innovation projects, ”said Diana Verde Nieto, co-founder and CEO of Positive Luxury.

However, if a brand is not also doing its due diligence, then working with famous ambassadors, activists or sustainability-conscious content creators could lead to accusations of greenwashing.

It already started in 2021 with the television show “The Activist”, which was due to air on CBS in the United States in the fall. On the show, six activists were set to compete against each other to bring attention to various causes on social media and be judged by celebrities Julianne Hough, Usher and Priyanka Chopra Jonas.

It has encountered a lot of negative reactions for being “performative” and its format is now ready to be “reinvented”.

Additionally, asking an activist to participate in a campaign or cover shoot does not automatically make brands or media more environmentally conscious, nor does it exempt them from greenwashing.

Revealing her much-talked-about Vogue cover, Thunberg also criticized the fashion industry, pointing out the fine line these figures have to cross when participating in the fashion industry while acknowledging its misdeeds.

“The fashion industry is a huge contributor to the climate and ecological emergency, not to mention its impact on the countless workers and communities that are exploited around the world so that some can take advantage of the fast fashion that many treat as disposables. “Thunberg wrote. on her Twitter account, while also sharing images from her Vogue cover.

Venetia La Manna, a content creator who uses her 148,000 follower Instagram platform and popular podcast to talk about garment workers’ rights and sustainable consumption, says brands have a responsibility to make honest change the way they work ”, and we need laws in place to make sure they don’t greenwash.

Over the past year, La Manna has worked with Ren Skincare, Vestiaire Collective, lingerie brand Stripe and Stare, and eyewear brand Jimmy Fairly – and she said there’s always a vetting process when choosing of its partners.

“From a creator’s perspective, you really have to do your due diligence and research. If that sounds disgusting, it probably is, ”she said.

“When it comes to working with sustainable fashion brands, they need to tick various boxes: the people who make their clothes need to be paid a living wage and be allowed to unionize, the brand itself needs to be inclusive. , both in terms of size and the models they use.

“They also need to have a diversity policy, both internally and in terms of the influencers they work with, and they need to produce their clothes in small batches with an emphasis on the types of materials they use. If it’s a big brand with a billionaire CEO producing hundreds of thousands of clothes a year, that’s a tough ‘no’, ”she said.

Livia Firth, founder of sustainability consultancy Eco-Age, added that “it’s imperative” for fashion brands to welcome activist voices into their world, but they can no longer try to control the entire narrative. .

“The old story of witnessing is gone, and it’s often so insincere. It’s more about [brands] ask “Can you help me? And less on “Can I pay you to wear this?” “Inclusiveness has to be hearing those voices and learning from them,” she said.

“It is also quite possible to work together. If I think back to the work we’ve done with Eco-Age over the years, we’ve always stuck with reporting wrongdoing, while taking brands by the hands and working with them. Change needs to be a two-way street, but honesty needs to be at the center of it on both sides. “

Verde Nieto added that in 2022, brand activism is also expected to take the form of more individual brand initiatives that go beyond touching the right faces.

“Sometimes when we talk about brand activism, by default we think brands have to work with activists. But in 2022, brand activism is all about using the power behind a brand to benefit the communities – or audiences – affected by the brand. For example, they can choose not to use plastic and make it clear why they are making that decision, or not to use palm oil and commit to raising awareness of the importance of protecting the rainforest. . When a brand decides to put its power on a subject close to its heart, it can then seek out people or organizations who have the same goals as they do, ”she explained.

“Brand activism is a powerful marketing tool as more and more consumers expect brands to do it, but it has to be a brand activism strategy: a plan of action associated with a long-term investment, not just a statement of commitment. “