Australian, New Zealand Fashion Industries React to U.S. Protests – WWD

SYDNEY — The Australian and New Zealand fashion industries have joined the growing chorus of support for the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of the May 25 death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police.

Following several solidarity protests in Australia and New Zealand on Monday and Tuesday, fashion companies in both countries have been sharing messages of support for the movement to their social media feeds, often accompanied by the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag.

Participants include global retailers such as Billabong, Zimmermann, the Cotton On Group and New Zealand-American footwear brand Allbirds; pure-play online retailers such as The Iconic, Boohoo Australia and Princess Polly; and smaller designer brands such as Spell & The Gypsy Collective, Karen Walker and Zambesi.

“We are an Australian brand made up of a proud family of diverse voices, ethnicities and cultures. We are privileged to have a voice and a platform. And right now, we have a duty to use our influence and community to speak out against racism, hatred and injustice” the Cotton On Group posted to its @CottonOn and @CottonOn_USA Instagram feeds on Monday, later reposting the same message to  number of its other Instagram accounts in Australia, Asia, Africa and Brazil.

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We will not be silent. As a diverse organisation, that is made up of people who care, we are not ok with what happened to George Floyd this week. Like many around the globe, it has forced a time of internal and external reflection. As people, and as a company, we are not ok with racism, and we are not ok with Australia’s own injustices and deaths in custody of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people. Collectively, as a society, we are not yet doing enough to dismantle the ‘casual’ racism that injects itself into our culture, and the systemic racism that engulfs our world. Right now, we are all hurt by the shocking images we have been confronted with. We don’t have all the answers, but we need to ask the questions. We believe in change – we have a responsibility as a company and as individuals. It starts with understanding and with empathy, and it starts with each of us. Over the coming days, we will shine some light on how each and every one of us can make a difference in day-to-day life to create a world that works together to strive for unity. If you have suggestions of anything we should see, read, share, please comment below. We urge you to comment meaningfully, we will not tolerate hate. #THEICONIC

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“We all have a responsibility to use our voice for change. We stand with our black colleagues, clients, partners and allies today and every day. We see you and are committed to taking actionable steps that bring lasting change,” said IMG’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia on Instagram on Tuesday morning Sydney time.

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@karen_walker: This week I’ve been thinking a lot about William Melvin Kelley’s brilliant book, A Different Drummer. It’s a powerful, political novel of race & racism & the wide-open wound of slavery. The ​story’s set in a mid-20th century southern town that’s been built upon slavery– a wrong its white populace has no intention of righting. One day the entire black population leaves – they simply walk away without warning or explanation. The belligerent white populace is thrown by this- confused & angered by the statement it makes & the power it asserts. The governor’s man-child, passive-aggressive retort is: “We never needed them, never wanted them, & we’ll get along fine without them.”(If it were set today you just know that statement would be from you-know-who via Twitter)​ ​ It’s a story of injustice & domination made possible by the invented concept of race & its wicked progeny, racial hierarchy, that have been curses upon us for centuries & that exist purely to allow domination &​ subjugation.Any story, fact or fiction, that holds this evil anathema up to the light, is wrenching & heartbreaking. However, the book’s also a story of possibility, action & the claiming of power long due.​ ​ Turn on CNN today & there’s plenty of heartbreak there but, there’s also ​possibility, action & claiming of power long due.There’s asking & there’s listening, there’s holding up to the light uncomfortable truths & the having of courageous conversations. None of this is easy but it’s good & it’s needed.​ ​ It’s our responsibility to continue with all of these uncomfortable things we’re faced with; to not let the momentum slow, to not let the conversation stop until the wound of “race” & of racial hierarchy & the​ domination & subjugation it allows is healed for real, not just scabbed over until the next murder or beating opens it up again. We each have our own ways of doing that, there are thousands to choose from & I hope that every right-thinking person will find their way to keep this journey moving ​with passion, energy, love, curiosity & kindness & that together we create ​a new era in which race is the human race & respect, equality, kindness & love are what binds it.

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In addition to posting messages of support, Boohoo Australia and Australian online retailer Princess Polly said they had made donations to the NAACP and the Black Lives Matter Global Network, respectively, and encouraged their audiences to participate in the programs. Allbirds announced it had made donations to both organizations.

The U.S. protests have had a particular resonance with Australia’s indigenous community, which accounts for just 3.3 percent of Australia’s population, but makes up 29 percent of the total Australian adult prisoner population, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics December 2019 figures. The disproportionate number of indigenous deaths while under incarceration prompted a Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody from 1987-91 and remains a highly contentious issue.

Since the commissions’s conclusion in 1991, at least 432 indigenous Australians have died in custody, according to Guardian Australia’s Deaths Inside project.

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