There Was A Black Lives Matter Protest At Men's Fashion Week Today

Photo: Alexandra Ilyashov.
At the second day of New York Fashion Week: Men’s shows, attendees were greeted with a powerful political message before taking their seats or perusing a presentation. There was a silent Black Lives Matter protest happening outside. Organized by Hannah Stoudemire, a stylist at Lanvin, the group of 10 or so protesters were outfitted mostly in black; Stoudemire wore a T-shirt emblazoned with “Stop. Killing. Us.” Another protester’s shirt had Walter Scott’s name in large white letters, and one protester held a handwritten sign reading "Black Lives Matter." (No passersby joined the protest, at least over the course of its first two hours, according to Mashable.)

Stoudemire wanted to demonstrate outside of NYFW:M, which is organized by the CFDA, “because it's an American non-profit institution, and there have been Black designers that have graduated or won,” she told Refinery29. The protesters met outside of CFDA chairman Diane von Furstenberg’s headquarters in the Meatpacking neighborhood and walked together to the show venue, Skylight Clarkson Square.

We reached out to the CFDA’s president and CEO, Steven Kolb, for comment on the protest. “The CFDA supports the #BlackLivesMatter movement and believes that all lives matter,” Kolb said in a statement. “Fashion is about diversity, a notion we celebrate in our NYFW: Men's campaign this season.”

Ahead, Stoudemire explains the motivations behind staging her protest, which she’s termed “Stop Talking And Do Something” — and why she thinks the fashion industry just isn’t doing enough to acknowledge Black Lives Matter, or honor the lives of Black individuals slain by police.
Why did you decide to protest outside NYFW:M shows?
“I picked this venue because none of the fashion designers or houses acknowledge that we're dying. I've noticed fashion brands take great inspiration from Black culture; they use our Black models; our celebrities endorse them; we buy their clothes. Minorities almost run their markets. We're setting the trends, and fashion houses aren't acknowledging the very people they benefit from. It's not okay.

“I didn't expect our house [Lanvin] to acknowledge it, but some American designers could have. Even those Black or minority designers I’ve seen walk past [the protest], they haven’t stop to acknowledge us or take a picture. It’s hurtful that they don’t want to be associated with it."

How long has this been in the works?
“I’ve been planning this for about a year. I was going to do it in September, because it’s a much bigger venue. But then when Alton Sterling got shot, I decided to just go for it.”
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How did you organize for today?
“I sent out an email — I strategically picked fashion photographers, street style photographers, and I asked my close friends and family who I know support me and [would] actually show up to do something. It’s part of the Black Lives Matter movement, but I’m specifically calling this protest ‘Stop Talking And Do Something.’”

Why are you calling it that?
“So many people have posted memes and names and hashtags — they’re waiting for the next Malcolm X or Martin Luther King Jr., but it starts with us.”

How many people were you expecting today?
“When I call people to action and you say you’ll do it but you still don’t show up — about a hundred people said they’d be here, and you see what it is [10 people]. I mean, this is the perfect amount, honestly; I’m very happy with the turnout."

I saw on Instagram that stylist Rachel Johnson, whose client roster includes numerous NBA players, was here.
“Yes, she was! She’s my friend, and I’m so happy she came out, because she has a lot on the line, but she didn’t care. She went into a show just now, and said she’d be coming right back out. I really appreciate her support.”
Photo: Alexandra Ilyashov.

Have you had an issues with the shows’ security team or anything?
“No, they’ve been very kind. The security [person] doing traffic control hasn’t bothered us, she’s let us stand here and I know she supports us, because she’s made comments that we all have the same blood. I do want to point out that the [NYFW:M] staff has been really nice — they’ve come out and brought us water, multiple times, making sure we’re hydrated.”

Do you plan to be here throughout the shows this week?
“Probably. But our main thing is to use surprise tactics. You never know when we’ll show up, at fashion events but also, honestly, we might pop up outside any white corporation that isn’t acknowledging Black Lives Matter — banks, Wall Street, wherever.”
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