It is hard to ignore the cognitive dissonance I feel when I realize how much I spend on brands that don’t represent my values. It’s no secret most brands promote exclusivity, dressing wealthy thin white bodies instead of branding towards people of color, people of various sizes, or people from different socioeconomic classes. I didn’t realize how much I valued these things until today — when things such as diversity, inclusion, acceptance, and tolerance are challenged.
Growing up in the 90s, every Muslim uncle I knew was rocking Tommy Hilfiger. The brand became a benchmark for achieving the middle class American Dream and it proved profitable for the label. Rumors surfaced years later that Tommy Hilfiger did not want make clothes for minorities. This rumor directly affected business and hurt his relationship with his minority buyers, specifically with an influential hip hop community, who at the time supported brands like Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren. While it’s unclear whether the rumors were true, and I suppose it doesn’t matter much now, the details speak to a larger, more uncomfortable truth. Caveats like this provide insight into an industry that sells you a skinny white dream of luxury, but is actually dependent on the money of all people to provide a sustainable business.
You hear about other brands like Urban Outfitters and American Apparel face criticism over culturally insensitive branding, homophobic sentiments, and questionable marketing practices. We also witnessed many designers speaking out against Trump by refusing to dress Melania for the inauguration, which was a step in the right direction, but beyond the publicity of it, what measures are these brands taking to actually support a more inclusive stance?
Now you don’t need to throw out all your clothes and make a crazy lifestyle change, but rather adopt a more socially conscious attitude towards consumption. You don’t need to know, but you need to be willing to find out. It can be as simple as a Google search to stay up to date on the issues and see what your favorite brands are supporting. If the CEO of your favorite store supports anti-gay legislation, tweet them. Let them know what is important to you. If a brand objectifies women, promotes unhealthy standards of beauty, tests on animal subjects or engages in unethical manufacturing practices, let them know it’s not okay and perhaps boycott them until they change. Recently, Nordstrom’s dropped Ivanka Trump from their stores and the anti-Trump backlash also prompted the CEOs of both Uber & Disney to step down from Trump’s business advisory board, all because people spoke up. I believe the consumers, the people, have the power to create change. And the best way to get someone’s attention is often to hit them where it hurts — their wallet.
If we are woke, we need to allow it to seep into our lives so we can make more informed decisions and conscious choices. The point is to let sociocultural awareness go beyond social media and become an integral part of lives. The point is to grow and learn.