Fashion Culture

Fashion Culture: Fashion and Politics in 2020

Global fashion brands are engaging with politics more than ever before. The high stakes felt on either side of the US presidential election, prompted fashion brands to end their long held silence, taking action and responding to consumers calls for solidarity, on issues about which they are now expected to get involved.

 |  Fashion

Global fashion brands are engaging with politics more than ever before. The high stakes felt on either side of the US presidential election, prompted fashion brands to end their long held silence, taking action and responding to consumers calls for solidarity, on issues about which they are now expected to get involved.

Generation Z consumers are much more vocal than previous generations, and with their influence growing, and their numbers now surpassing millennials, their opinions about which brands to buy from, are largely formed around brands’ policies concerning inclusivity, racial equality, sustainability and climate change. These same issues drove in part the results of the US election, and voters gravitated towards brands taking an ethical stance and those promoting the same values.

Engaging with politics no doubt has its risks for brands. While some feared alienating consumers, choosing to stay silent, has cost some apparel companies and retail stores much more damage than first anticipated. Complacency or non engagement, was one of the most dangerous mistakes for brands in 2020. They are learning instead, that when their political actions align with their supposed values, consumers believe them to be much more authentic, and this has true economic force.

The ‘Time to Vote’ movement saw buy in during this election from many large fashion brands allowing their employees the time required to cast their ballot. Several apparel brands paid employees to volunteer at voting polls, some offered a vacation day to vote, 19 retailers included QR codes on their receipts to facilitate registration, meanwhile Saks Fifth Avenue was registering voters at its New York flagship and online via Saks.com signalling a new frontier for the fashion industry. Post 2020, we can surely expect a long term shift in retails attitudes towards their required level of involvement in politics.

Brand equity is strengthened when companies have gotten involved in politics, even when remaining non partisan. ‘Vote’ became the most popular fashion slogan in recent months, with celebrities and political figures alike donning the four letter word on everything from necklaces, to eyewear, masks and footwear. Designers such Michael Kors, Stuart Weitzman, and retail chains Levi’s, Keds and Nordstrom have gotten in on the action, often with the involvement of youth organisations to attract younger voters, and drive a cultural shift through fashion. This worked as the turnout among young people surged in 2020 compared to the previous US election, showing a continued trend in participation both in politics in general and in voting.

Black lives, the environment, gender equality and reproductive rights, are in the forefront of young consumers minds and they want to talk about it. Many want to enact change, and stand up for what’s right by putting their spending power in brands that support their cause. With the links between racial justice and voting more under the spotlight than ever this year, youths looked to brands to vocalise their frustrations and fears, and put an end to the exclusion and marginalization of people of colour. The fashion industry in particular was allowed for a very long time to capitalize on black culture, while at the same time never offering a welcoming space for black talent to flourish or thrive.

Consumers now are much more acutely aware of brands who share messages of support for the Black Lives Matter movement, meanwhile have historically disenfranchised and systematically discriminated against them. Brands now need to own their mistakes of the past, make significant change and address their anti racism and ethics policies openly. Removing all these barriers will be a tough, complicated transition, and they need to be approached with the understanding that such systemic structures need to broken down and rebuilt through political change, understanding and communication.

The fashion industry appears to be re-examining its responsibility in shaping political agendas and being more omnipresent in their efforts to drive positive change. The easy thing of course is to remain only about the clothing, but for brands who don’t want to participate in the movement, and advocate on behalf of their consumers, they will potentially be pushed aside, as fashion redesigns itself from the inside out.



© All rights reserved. Fashn Magazine

Back to Top