Brands across fashion categories are expressing support for the wave of protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd in late May. And while every area of the fashion industry has been enriched by black designers, models and workers, the streetwear and sneaker world is arguably the most indebted to black culture and the contributions of black community. Streetwear insiders like Jeff Staple have traced streetwear’s origin, noting that it owes just as much to hip-hop culture as it does to skate and surf culture.
That debt is one that many streetwear brands are acknowledging, in the form of verbal support but also with specific material contributions to funds and charities. But there are some notable exceptions from a few of the biggest streetwear brands in the world. And some of the brands that have pledged money are lacking in specificity at a time when concrete and decisive action is needed. What’s more, all of the brands interviewed for this story declined to comment on diversity in-house.
StockX is one of the streetwear leaders that has offered specific details on how it is trying to support the movement, but that isn’t coming in the form of a lump sum donation. Instead, the company is encouraging employees to donate and matching all employee donations to eight organizations, including the Official George Floyd Memorial Fund, the Minnesota Freedom Fund, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and Communities United Against Police Brutality.
StockX, which is a unicorn company valued at more than $1 billion, doesn’t have a specific number yet for how much it is donating to these causes, since the matching program is still ongoing. The platform already has several ongoing philanthropic efforts, including a coronavirus fundraiser for the Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund and q charity campaign for the World Health Organization, but the focus on racial justice specifically is new.
“StockX has deep connections to black culture in America,” a company spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “It is our obligation to speak out. Today, we join with those who are fighting against injustice and the forces that institutionalize it. Our team members are actively supporting several funds and organizations fighting for social justice.”
The streetwear giant Supreme’s relatively timid response to the unrest is one of the more glaring omissions. Supreme is also worth more than $1 billion. The company posted a short statement on Instagram on Sunday expressing support for racial justice.
The brand has offered no specific material actions like donating to any bail funds or hosting any sort of fundraiser, nor does its statement contain any acknowledgement of the importance of black cultural figures like Tyler, the Creator and Travis Scott, in popularizing Supreme for millions of young fashion fans today.
Supreme did not respond to requests for comment on this story.
Off-White’s response to the protests has been underwhelming for a number of reasons.
For one, the company has not posted any official statement on the ongoing movement, besides a plain black image on Instagram on Tuesday with no accompanying caption or statement. The brand has also not pledged any donations or supported any fundraisers.
On Monday, CEO Virgil Abloh received backlash for criticizing protestors after they looted a store run by Abloh’s friend Sean Wotherspoon and then posting a video on his Instagram Story of a $50 donation to a Miami bail fund. New Guards Group, the parent company of Off-White, was bought by Farfetch for $675 million in August last year.
On Tuesday, Abloh apologized for his criticisms and voiced support for the movement on his personal Instagram, donating $20,000 to a bail fund and promising that Off-White would soon release some products with proceeds going to more donations, although this product and the exact destination of those funds has not been revealed.
Kith did not respond to request for comment on this story, but the retailer has expressed support for the movement on Instagram, stating that the company is “committed to using our voice and resources to stand for the safety of our citizens, friends, family and neighbors in productive ways that we pray will spur the change we need.”
Kith is donating money to nine different funds, including the George Floyd Memorial Fund, the ACLU and the Minnesota Freedom Fund, according to the brand’s Instagram account. The exact amount the brand is donating has not been publicly disclosed. Kith was launched in 2010 with a valuation of $500 million and has grown ever since.
Stadium Goods, along with its parent company Farfetch, pledged through social posts on Sunday to offer support materially as well as verbally for the movement, specifically highlighting the fact that the company is indebted to black culture and the black community for existing.
“Sneaker culture, streetwear and Stadium Goods would not exist were it not for the defining contributions of the black community,” the company said in an Instagram post. “We are a company built on community, and our community is in pain because black members have been victimized by systemic racism for far too long. We pledge to not be silent in the face of these continuing injustices. We stand in solidarity with everyone working toward the change this country and the world needs. We pledge to act with both voices and resources in coordination with Farfetch.”
This statement did not include any specifics about the company’s plans, and no details have been revealed since then. A spokesperson for the company, when asked about what some of those specifics were, pointed back to the statement on Instagram as the resellers’ only current statement at the moment. Stadium Goods was acquired by Farfetch in late 2018 for $250 million.
Chinatown Market has always cultivated a brash, informal persona and a tight relationship with its community free from a lot of the PR-approved corporate speak that has inflected a lot of brand messaging right now. It’s response to the protest movement reflects that.
The brand released a T-shirt emblazoned with the words “Fuck Racism,” which is on sale now for $40, with 100% of the proceeds being split evenly between the George Floyd Memorial Fund, the National Bail Fund Network and the Black Lives Matter fund.
On a Chinatown Market Instagram Story, the company posted extensive information on all the funds it’s donating to, as well as additional resources for where people can sign petitions, donate to other funds and call lawmakers to demand change.
“As a clothing brand with such a strong community, we want to use our platform and expertise to come together,” the company said in a statement on Instagram. “[We want to] make a difference and show our support for those affected by racial injustice.”