As racially-motivated police brutality continues without justice — demonstrated this week with the case of Philando Castile — the #BlackLivesMatter movement has only grown in importance since its conception in 2012. So, when Canadian luxury brand Ports 1961 debuted "Every Color Matters" shirts at its spring 2018 presentation during Men's Fashion Week on Tuesday, it's unsurprising that the internet was quick to react with outrage.
At best, the creation of "Every Color Matters" and "Only Love Matters" tops was a capitalist exploitation of the fight for racial equality. Critics also (and rightly) point out that manipulating the term "Black Lives Matter" degrades the legitimacy of the movement, weakening its purpose as a spotlight on the deadly police brutality the Black community continues to face, Teen Vogue reports.
In his review of the show, Vogue's Nick Remsen wrote that "there are subtler and more sensitive ways to deliver a message of resistance and fairness and acceptance." He continued: "A T-shirt that read “Only Love Matters,” a broadening of the term “Black Lives Matter,” felt, to this writer, troublesome (a movement that big and important and personal to so many should perhaps not help to serve a company’s bottom line). Ditto for a clenched fist on a jumper that opened the show."
Twitter users also chimed in, highlighting both their anger and disappointment with the brand's decision.
Though the show notes acknowledged the brand's political motivations — they read, “This collection is, in its own way, a message of solidarity for the Black Lives Matter movement that began in the street and on social media in 2012. The fight against violence and for justice for black people resonates today in an even wider, bigger way” — Twitter user @dreammcclinton pointed out that "when art is insincere, it shows. You cannot take a movement you don't understand and attempt to tap into the market."
Despite criticism, Ports 1961 stands by its designs. When asked about the controversy and backlash, a representative from the brand told Refinery29:
"We think that Fashion reflects the world around us. In a time of challenge, fear and disillusion, it is the creative person's role to try to deliver a message of love and hope. For the past several seasons, Milan Vukmirovic has been exploring the urgency of love and the importance of fraternity, unity and solidarity. It wasn't our intention to offend anyone but on the contrary this collection is, in its own way, a message of solidarity towards all the people who are suffering from discrimination, violence, and bullying acts."