NYFW Men’s took over NYC this week, but the fashion industry kept a tight lip about the chaos unfolding across the country. Black Lives Matter protestors gathered outside of Skylight Clarkson Square, as some of fashion’s biggest names shuffled from show to show, stopping only to pose for street style shots. With all this, we started to ask ourselves, “Is fashion week distracting from what’s important?”
Apparently, we weren’t the only ones feeling that way. DKNY and Public School Designer, Maxwell Osborne, penned a heartfelt op-ed for W urging the industry to break their silence and stand with Black Lives Matter. The designer said he joined the movement in their Union Square protest after the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile last week.
“I could have sat at my desk and just focused on the work piling up,” he wrote. “I could have just posted a picture on Instagram. But something compelled me to go into the streets last week and join the movement […] As a designer, they’ve made me question what my role is in all of this, what can I do? I decided that I could no longer just sit on the sidelines.”
Instead of resigning to the “easy crutch that there’s little for us to do from our perch in the comfortable seat of fashion except make clothes,” Osborne decided to speak up and encourage his peers to use their positions of power to incite real change.
“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,” he said. “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.”
Osborne continued his message with a powerful call to arms:
“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.
And that’s just the beginning. But start somewhere and step up. Let’s not turn our backs on the young black men and women of tomorrow. Let us learn from our fear and the stereotypes that have bound many for so long and stop perpetuating hate and casual discrimination. It is far easier to hate than to love, but what Black Lives Matter taught me is that you can only be silent for so long before you feel parts of yourself die.
What I saw last Thursday was a city united and mobilized in peace for a common purpose. What I witnessed was that love outclasses hate, ALWAYS.”