THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN POC & THE FAHION INDUSTRY
The world has significantly changed in the past few months, and the world of fashion and business is no exception from that. Consumers now demand more from businesses than just their products and services, and likewise, shoppers want more than just a fashion statement from the fashion industry. Throughout the history of fashion people of color, and more specifically the black community, has popularized many fashion trends which were picked up by broader fashion industry used to make their own fashion statements. Now it is time for the fashion industry to give back by making a statement with a deeper meaning than fashion—one that stands for the lives of people of color (POC).
Throughout the past few decades POC, and especially the black community, have been the pioneers for iconic fashion trends that are still religiously followed today. These trends include monogram print, hoop earrings, sneaker culture, lettuce hems, and streetwear, just to name a few. Monogram print is now a modern indicator of wealth and status, but was originally popularized in the 1980s by Dapper Dan who gained the support of the hip-hop and rap community. Sneaker culture also gained traction because of black urban youth, who drove the category to transition from sportswear into a form of cultural expression. These are all eye-catching statements made by black culture in the fashion industry, collectively contributing to one of the most prominent trends of the modern fashion world: streetwear.
The birth of streetwear goes back to the 1970s with the rise of hip hop, and especially gained traction when celebrities like Kanye West and Tupac were seen sporting the style. Today, streetwear has evolved into a multi-billion dollar retail market, and is one of the most hyped commodities in the world of fashion. Although it originally stemmed from the black community, streetwear has evolved into the broader fashion world and caught the attention of all players, including luxury goods sectors such as Louis Vuitton.
One primary reason streetwear took off in the way that it did is because it enabled consumers to make a statement in the fashion industry. Before streetwear the fashion industry followed a strict top-down approach with the inside players deciding the hottest styles and trends. Streetwear began and was all about exclusivity, and the demands were heavily influenced by consumer opinions; this turned the tables and put the power to determine desirability in the hands of consumers. Consumers took this power and used it to make political statements and express themselves. This trend doesn’t have any indication of leveling off soon, as two thirds of consumers reported that streetwear never goes out of style, and 76% of respondents in a survey conducted by Strategy& expected the market to continue to grow significantly over the next five years. All this momentum wouldn’t have been possible without the black community being the pioneers of streetwear over 40 years ago.
Now, it’s crucial for brands to make statements that stand for the rights of the black community and POC in general. 70% of streetwear fans stated that social awareness and brand activism was important to them, pushing brands to make statements that fight for their consumers. Brands in the industry ranging from Nike to Gucci have made impactful statements backed by real actions to support the Black Lives Matter movement. Gucci has implemented long term diversity and inclusion strategies and started sharing their ongoing commitments to people and the planet. Nike made a powerful statement encouraging people to “Just Don’t Do It” for once, essentially calling on consumers to take action to combat racial injustices in America. These are only a few examples of the impactful statements made and actions taken by fashion brands in order to stand up for POC and black lives, and give back to the community that has given such a strong foundation to the industry.
These are only one of many examples of how POC have played an impactful role in the fashion industry and how the fashion industry has made statements standing up for POC. As consumers, we can do our part not and refuse to settle, we can continue to demand more from the industry and make our own strides towards a brighter future.