Aside from a few smatterings of acts of protest, fashion as a whole has erred on the side of selective silence when it comes to Black Lives Matter. This didn’t sit well with Public School and DKNY designer, Maxwell Osborne, so he penned a moving essay in W today to galvanize his peers. Osborne, who yesterday declined to comment to the Cut about ignoring a group of Black Lives Matter protesters at Men’s Fashion Week, discussed how the murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile propelled him to participate in his first protest in Union Square last week. “I decided that I could no longer just sit on the sidelines,” he wrote.
The most captivating part of the essay comes near the end, when Osborne calls on the fashion industry to stand with the Black Lives Matter movement. He writes:
“But I write this open letter to encourage the fashion industry to not just continue the dialogue of race in America, but to do something about it. Fashion exists in a world of make believe. Our job is to offer an escape from everyday life and a fantasy of glamour and beautiful clothes. It’s easy to forget the real world with its very real problems. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Fashion is always at its best when it looks outside of itself for inspiration and holds up a mirror to society. Sometimes we do that on the runway and sometimes when we come together as an industry and take up important causes, like so many of our peers have and continue to do with breast cancer and HIV/AIDS.
Stand with Black Lives Matter. Go out and educate yourself and learn how you can help and join the conversation as an active participant and not just as a passive, if well-meaning, observer. Encourage diversity on your runways and campaigns. Empower your social media fans to raise their voices. Use your designs for the public good. Attend a protest and see change in action. Raise awareness – it’s not as empty a gesture as it may seem – and others will follow your lead.”
In the end he calls on the industry to come together. And if anyone can lead the way, the shining star of fashion is not a bad place to start.