Fashion industry: If you are careless, you lose all the games

“The world will tell you: racial discrimination should end…” On May 30, 2020, after the fourth anti-racism march triggered by the death of African American Freud, Gucci posted a message on Instagram (hereinafter referred to as Ins)’s feed again quoted the words of American poetess and activist Cleo Wade. The more pragmatic New York beauty brand Glossier announced that it would spend $1 million to support anti-racism social organizations and cosmetics companies founded by African Americans.

During this period, Versace, Prada, Fendi, Dior, Saint Laurent, Silin, Chanel, Loewe and many other luxury brands also posted social media tweets that “say no to racism”, or represent support for the black movement. Black squares, or short essays praying for peace, or even recruitment books intended to express the racial diversity of employees.

Nike tweeted against racial discrimination on May 29, 2020. Adidas supported it the next day and issued a slogan “We must move forward together, and we must change together.”

Such brands have come together to respond to incidents of racial discrimination, the grand occasion can be said to be unprecedented, because the fashion industry almost never comment on political events, especially on such hot spots on the cusp. But this time, even Nike changed its iconic ad slogan “Just do it” to “For once, don’t do it” (this time, don’t do it). The implication is not to bow to racial discrimination.

The current creative director of Bowman, Olivier Rustin, is one of the very few blacks who have served as directors of high-end brands. He said: “When I took office as the director nine years ago, the fashion industry was relatively indifferent to the issue of racial discrimination. It seems that. Everyone agrees that the luxury goods industry is a unique field for rich whites.” But now, the international trend of the luxury goods industry and the pressure of online public opinion are forcing these brands to make changes.

| Forced to speak up |
In the past three years, more and more models of different races have appeared on the covers of shows, advertisements and magazines. Ghanaian American Virgil Ablo was also appointed as Louis Vuitton’s Menswear Artistic Director in 2018. Although these actions have a certain symbolic meaning of political correctness, they have not changed the actual situation: there are still very few non-white models in fashion week, and the designers of large companies are still mainly white, let alone senior leaders and directors. Olivier said: “I have incorporated elements of hip-hop culture into this season’s products and invited some rappers to accompany the catwalks. Some reporters asked me whether this approach is compatible with the concept of luxury brands. But if they face He’s a white designer, maybe there won’t be such doubts.”

George Floyd died in violence on the evening of May 25 last year. In the following days, when this racial discrimination incident caused an uproar around the world, fashion brands were still publishing some light news. Light brand information, which makes them much criticized and attacked on social networks.

Olivier Rustin, who works for Bowman, and Virgil Ablo, who works for Louis Vuitton, are one of the few blacks who work as directors of luxury brands.

Saint Laurent released a new jewellery bracelet in its Ins news on May 29. In the comment section of this news, there are some remarks: “We are still waiting for your opinion”, “What to say, what to do #黑的命也命#” “It is another brand that has been supported by the black community for decades, but now it is silent.” The next day, Chanel pushed a mascara ad, and the following comment was like this: “Your life is still going on, the brand is still in operation, what about the lives of black people? Do you all look to the money?” “No one now Concerned about the mascara, your silence speaks for itself.” Freud’s four days of questioning and insults after his death have brought great pressure to brand owners. On May 30, these brands began to respond one after another.

But the response of some fashion companies did not come from the leaders’ intentions, but more from the pressure of employees-they could not accept the company’s silent attitude to the incident. Guillaume Delacroix, who runs a public relations firm in Paris and New York, said: “My brand clients have no choice, especially in the United States. People will force them to express their views as long as they lock them in.” Yaom further explained: “People often target brands who have long been accused of’not acting on racial issues’ to maintain the culture of white dominance. They are very sensitive to their every move. If they do not express their views, they will consider them to be racist.”

In this special period, all luxury brands are walking on thin ice.

When brand owners decide what to respond to, they have to face the problem of temporarily acting as political spokespersons. This job is not easy to do, especially when you need to make a quick statement, because it is easy to make bigger mistakes accidentally.

Even those large luxury companies that have received professional training in public relations seem to have lost their acumen when facing this sensitive topic. For example, the Kering Group decided to donate money to support social groups against racism and police violence only a week after the Freud incident, which caused it to be criticized on social media.

|”Get the money!”|
In the Louis Moet Hin Group, compared to centralized management, the company gives its brands a relatively high degree of freedom to convey their own ideas. But in this extraordinary period, because they need to deal with all kinds of negative information separately, this degree of freedom has become a burden instead. An employee who works in public relations in Paris said: “If you can control negative comments to 10% to 15%, it can be regarded as a successful public relations. As long as the media no longer mentions these negative comments, things will pass. On the contrary. , It may attract more doubts and abuse.”

In order to avoid these rush of negative opinions, brand public relations will adopt a series of coping strategies. “The Internet is more tolerant of brands that publicly admit that they are not doing enough.” Guillaume said, “At the same time, it is also more inclined to let brand directors or directors express their opinions on social networks in their own name, and try to use short sentences— —No more than 12 words on the Instagram platform — to avoid mistakes as much as possible. Also, the appropriate time interval between the announcement of support for the black movement and the promotion of the next product also needs to be considered.”

“Another point is very important: the actual actions of the brand must keep up with the rhythm.” said Lucian Pajes, who runs a public relations firm in New York and Paris. For some international brands, the practice of donating 15% of the profits realized in the United States from the beginning of 2020 to anti-discrimination social organizations seems to be a new universal norm in the industry. Some companies have also invested internal budgets in anti-discrimination activities, such as conducting education and training for employees against racial discrimination, and recruiting employees based on the principle of ethnic diversity.

In 2010, after Guerlain’s former boss Jean-Paul Guerlain’s racist remarks were exposed, people gathered in front of his store to protest and launch the “Boycott Guerlain” campaign.

The attitude of brand owners who make verbal statements without actual action is not recognized by the public. For example, the Belgian brand Dries Van Norton just posted a love on Instagram and added the label “Black people’s fate is fate”. The following dozens of comments criticize this tweet for uselessness and hypocrisy: “What did you contribute?” “Bring out the money!” “I hope all your American stores will be smashed!” African-American designer Sergio Hudson said: “Just talk and really do There is a difference. Will these big companies that understate their statements really hire black designers to fund black original design brands? Look back a year later to see what they did.”

| Make changes |
In today’s general environment, “social responsibility” has become a point that must be considered in the development of enterprises, and fashion brands are behaving more and more like social activists. Some companies have also begun to reflect on whether it is reasonable or necessary to assume social responsibility. Kering Group CEO Francois Henry Pinault believes that on some social issues, companies should speak up and participate in public discussions.

So will fashion companies have more profound changes as a result? In this regard, Olivier said: “The fashion industry is facing the blame, and further changes are imminent. Today’s young people hope that fashion brands can speak out as value leaders, and they cannot tolerate hypocritical performance. Companies should shoulder a certain amount of society. responsibility.”

Nowadays, after the “yellow vest” campaign in France, the winter strike and the new crown epidemic, the biggest fear of fashion brands is the continued decline in transaction volume. In 2010, after French Radio 2 reported the racist remarks of Guerlain’s former boss Jean-Paul Guerlain, people gathered in front of the Guerlain store to protest and launched the “Boycott Guerlain” campaign. If at that time, the fashion industry could withstand such resistance, now, after months of turbulence, no brand can continue to bear the losses caused by improper speech.