This Designer Wrote A Poignant Letter To The Fashion Industry About Black Lives Matter

Photo: Mireya Acierto/Getty Images.
The fashion industry hasn't been all that vocal about the horrific spate of shootings of Black individuals over the past few years or about the resultant Black Lives Matter movement. To some, the silence (whether of fashion houses, editors, stylists, and the ilk) isn't just unfortunate, it's unacceptable, as Tuesday's protest outside of the New York Fashion Week: Men's shows proved. Now, there's at least one designer who is speaking up about the dearth of conversation — and the need for action.

Maxwell Osborne, cofounder of Public School and co-creative director of DKNY, penned an open letter for W. In it, he shares what compelled him to attend his first-ever protest last week — at the age of 33 — and also addressing how much more the fashion community could be doing to address Black Lives Matter. "As a designer, [Black Lives Matter has] 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," Osborne wrote. He cobbled together a diverse group of friends ("Black, white, Asian, mixed," he said) to attend a NYC protest following the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Osborne describes being struck by the sense of camaraderie at the protest and the goose bump-inducing feeling of unity at the protest.

He then implores the industry to try harder, while acknowledging fashion's delightfully escapist nature. "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," Osborne wrote. "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 notes the kind of work that's been done in the fashion biz for causes like AIDS and breast cancer as example of what can happen when the industry rallies behind a cause.

Kudos to Osborne for also addressing race issues in the industry in addition to Black Lives Matter-related dialogue. This includes addressing the glaring lack of representation: "Encourage diversity on your runways and campaigns," Osborne wrote. "Empower your social media fans to raise their voices. Use your designs for the public good." He also underscores the importance of following his lead and seeing "change in action" by actually partaking in a protest.

"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," Osborne poignantly puts it. We're looking forward to seeing how Osborne (and Dao-Yi Chow, his professional partner in crime at both Public School and DKNY) decides to bring his voice to Black Lives Matter (and racial strife in general) and the runway at the spring '17 shows come September.
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