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Fresh Faces, Indigenous Voices Reenergize Australian Fashion Week

Fresh Faces, Indigenous Voices Reenergize Australian Fashion Week

SYDNEY — Kicking off with a 60,000-year-old smoking ceremony and catapulting a flurry of new names, a number of them Indigenous, the newly minted Afterpay Australian Fashion Week returned to Sydney this month after a two-year hiatus with a new, inclusive spirit and a packed live runway schedule.
On the opening day, there was a palpable sense of relief among attendees to be back networking with their peers after 18 months of Zoom chats and off-again-on-again lockdowns. The industry mood was also buoyed by the results of an Ernst & Young report that were released that morning by the Australian Fashion Council, which revealed the Australian fashion industry contributes more than 27.2 billion Australian dollars, or $21 billion, to the Australian economy and creates 7.2 billion Australian dollars, or $6 billion, in exports — more than double the export revenues of Australia’s wool, wine and beer sectors, respectively.

Ninety-seven Australian and New Zealand brands were featured throughout the five-day resort 2022 collections showcase, the event’s delayed 25th anniversary, which wrapped on June 4 at the Carriageworks venue. The majority of the 48 presentations were live runway shows, complemented by a handful of fashion films and a substantially boosted talks program.
Event organizer IMG could not, at press time, supply any attendance data. However, with no international delegates due to Australia’s ongoing travel bans, numbers seemed down on 2019, which was attended by some 1,600 industry professionals from more than 20 countries. The 2020 event was canceled altogether due to the pandemic.

The new, integrated consumer program “The Experience” saw one dedicated see now, buy now consumer show included on the schedule on each of the five days, presented by new naming rights sponsor Afterpay. All of the shows sold out, according to IMG, seating anywhere from 400 to 600 people per show, pending the layout. Two brands — Romance Was Born and Bassike — doubled down on shows, each presenting a trade show and a public one.
Nine of the trade-focused wholesale collections shows also opened up a small number of seats to the public.
Beyond mandatory temperature checks and NSW Government QR code check-ins at entry to Carriageworks, only pit photographers and backstage crews had to mask up and there was no social distancing in the seating plans.
“The AAFW resort 2022 collections showcase reminded us of moments taken for granted pre-pandemic, including the magical spectacle of a live runway and seeing the creativity of fashion and retail come to life,” said Bridget Veals, general manager of women’s wear, footwear and accessories at Australian department store chain David Jones.
“There were so many standout shows including Ginger & Smart, Kitx, Oroton, Commas and Anna Quan,” she added. “Bondi Born’s runway amongst the most quintessential Sydney backdrops [the Overseas Passenger Terminal, overlooking Sydney Harbour] was a real highlight. Showcasing their full resort collection, which consisted of effortless halter maxis, matching separates and chic trousers, all in an inspiring color palette of punchy sorbet tones. I loved how seamlessly they merged resort and ready-to-wear.”

“There seems to be a united feeling that every attendee is extremely grateful and happy to be out and about interacting, catching up and connecting, whilst enjoying the creativity, exhibitions and buzz of the busy scheduling,” said Eva Galambos, director of Sydney multibrand luxury boutique Parlour X, whose favorite shows included Romance Was Born, which presented a collection composed of deadstock and upcycled vintage fabrics against a fantasy fairground backdrop; Christopher Esber; Albus Lumen; Bassike; as well as a heavy roster of newcomers who joined the schedule this year.
Galambos’ newbies picks included Non Plus, a luxury men’s wear line that was launched at an off-site show at Bondi restaurant Icebergs by Sydney restaurateur and Ten Pieces cofounder Maurice Terzini, in collaboration with Gareth Moody, ex-Ksubi and Chronicles of Never designer. Also, the avant-garde striped knits and oversize silhouettes of 2017 Central Saint Martins graduate Jordan Dalah, who was given the prestigious opening slot; multidisciplinary designer Jordan Gogos, whose psychedelic romp of a show felt like Mardi Gras-meets-Willy Wonka; this year’s National Designer Award winner Commas, and two separate Indigenous showcases produced by the First Nations Fashion and Design collective and the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair Foundation’s Indigenous Fashion Projects initiative, which between them introduced 13 First Nations names to the wider industry, including Grace Lillian Lee, Ngarru Miimi, Aarli, Kirrikin Australia, Maara Collective, Liandra Swim and Ngali.
The first of the Indigenous shows, staged by FNFD, featured an all-Indigenous cast and crew. Political messages about Indigenous land rights resonated through powerful musical performances from the artists William Barton, rapper Neil Morris and electronic duo Electric Fields. The show drew a standing ovation which lasted for minutes and left many attendees in tears.
AAFW’s Indigenous program, which also included the opening Welcome to Country, on-site showrooms and seminars, will continue to be “a central focus of the event moving forward,” said Natalie Xenita, vice president and managing director of IMG Fashion Events & Properties, Asia Pacific.

“Seeing our Indigenous designers being part of fashion week was incredible,” said Anna Brennan, general manager of fashion at Global Fashion Group’s The Iconic, Australasia’s largest online fashion retailer, which is planning to introduce Indigenous brands to its lineup.
“We’re really excited to add these brands to our assortment, two in particular — Grace Lillian Lee and Ngarru Miimi,” Brennan added. “But there’s a list of quite a few that we are in the midst of following up. We see them sitting with our designer section. Definitely, they would be as part of our elevated assortment.”
Brennan’s other favorite shows included Christopher Esber, Oroton, Romance Was Born and men’s wear brands Christian Kimber, Commas and Non Plus.
Gender-fluid dressing was another key highlight of the week, said Brennan — along with a noticeable proliferation of nonbinary models on AAFW’s runways.
Other key overall trends included a return to better dressing, as seen in a number of collections through reimagined, soft tailoring; matching sets; crochet; resort-appropriate leather; a fresh, bright color palette including hot pink, mango, forest green and pops of neon, and headscarves in several collections.
Although specializing in what she calls “wow dressing” and party pieces, the pandemic wasn’t all bad for Shannon Thomas of Sydney boutique Désordre, who has opened two new stores since September, due in part to more flexible post-COVID-19 business terms, as well as her business blowing up on Instagram throughout the pandemic via locked-down consumers eager for escapism, she said. Christopher Esber, who specializes in intricate eveningwear that’s heavy on embellishment and cutouts, has been Désordre’s number-one brand for the past three years.
A number of international retailers that have for years sent buyers down to attend the event in person, facilitated by the event’s sponsored travel and accommodation program, registered with IMG as “digital delegates” this year and caught the runway action via IMG’s global streaming platform Ausfw.com, following up with appointments in virtual showrooms.
The latter included Australian start-up Ordre.com, which showcased the collections of 25 participating designers via its ongoing partnership with the Australian Fashion Council. Collections in the AFC Virtual on Ordre showrooms, which will be open until the end of June, had at press time been viewed 431 times by 52 unique buyers in 12 countries, Ordre told WWD.

“Overall, it was a brilliant example of a multiplatform fashion week, incorporating both physical and digital presentations — I witnessed various films, shows, presentation and conversations,” said Lea Cranfield, chief buying and merchandising officer at Net-a-porter, whose highlights, viewed remotely, included Bondi Born, Bassike, Anna Quan and Michael Lo Sordo.
“All designers really elevated their collections, taking them to the next level of resortwear, through unique methods and aesthetics. Bondi Born and Bassike, in particular, presented a modern lifestyle approach this season,” she added.
“Loungewear to luxe is quite prominent this fashion week — from silk separates that felt modern, yet subtle enough for lounging or dressing up. Additionally, sunset silky shades are also a must covet item this season,” Cranfield said.
Michael Lo Sordo’s and Bondi Born’s shows were also tapped by Browns Fashion rtw buying manager Holly Tenser as her top shows, along with Byron Bay-based St Agni.
“I thought Bondi Born was beautifully presented — it really transported me remotely to Sydney, with the incredible views of Sydney Harbour and the iconic Harbour Bridge in the background,” said Tenser, who reports Browns is continuing to see strong growth across the business post-COVID-19. “The collection had a strong focus on ready-to-wear, continuing to develop from the swim, and this evolution really made sense to be present in a city location.”
Perth-based Showroom-X, a new Australian e-commerce platform, which targets the mainland Chinese market, came up with its own twist on AAFW’s new see now, buy now component by working with Non Plus to make its presentation a shoppable trunk show.
With delivery in October, Showroom-X is taking a 30 percent deposit on Non Plus runway looks — which are presented on the Showroom-X website photographed on a woman.
“If you go to Icebergs [the restaurant] right now, there’s a QR code on the back of the menu and at the show, there was a QR code at the front and that took you straight to our site where you could pr-order straight from the runway,” said Showroom-X creative director Kelly Atkinson. “It’s see now, buy now but in a considered way, that’s preordered off wholesale. I think that’s kind of the future of fashion weeks — it has to be kind of that consumer-driven mentality. This was a way of marrying the two for us. So OK, we can have the wholesale clients there, but we can also get a real-time customer feedback. Because it’s so different from a buyer’s perspective.”

She added, “I think that that data is invaluable in this day and age. It means that we’re producing less and considering the products that we are making already sold.”

EXCLUSIVE: IMG Partners With First Nations Fashion and Design for Australian Fashion Week

EXCLUSIVE: IMG Partners With First Nations Fashion and Design for Australian Fashion Week

SYDNEY — IMG will partner with First Nations Fashion and Design, a national voice representing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander designers, to support Indigenous Australian creative talent in a series of initiatives at the upcoming Afterpay Australian Fashion Week, whose resort 2022 collections showcase will run from May 31 to June 4 at Sydney’s Carriageworks venue.
WWD can reveal that FNFD will open the event on the morning of May 31 with a Welcome to Country presentation, which will include a traditional smoking ceremony, along with dance, art and fashion elements.
On June 2, FNFD will then present an Indigenous runway showcase featuring the work of eight designers, including Amber Days by Corina Muir; Aarli by Teagan Cowlishaw; Clair Helen; Ngarru Miimi by Lillardia Allirra Briggs-Houston; Keema Co. by Nickeema Williams; Nungala Creative by Jessica Johnson; Sown in Time by Lynelle Flinders, and artist Grace Lillian Lee, who is also the founder and director of the First Nations Fashion and Design Indigenous Corporation.

From May 31 through June 2, FNFD will also operate a dedicated space within AAFW’s on-site showroom facility The Suites, which will serve as a backdrop for featured Indigenous designers to meet with buyers and media.
Additionally, on June 3, Lee will host a panel discussion exploring the continued growth and industry support of Indigenous Australian models and designers as part of the AAFW: The Talks program.

“We are committed to playing an active role in the advancement of Indigenous Australian designers and leveraging our resources to amplify their voices in the Australian fashion industry and around the globe,” said Natalie Xenita, executive director of IMG’s fashion events group, Asia Pacific region.
“Our country has inspired the Australian fashion and design industry for over 200 years,” Lee said. “Our practices and native landscapes have served as a great source of inspiration. Our people and our land continue to contribute to the growth and development of this nation. We aim to rewrite history by reclaiming our narrative of connection to country through fashion and design. Indigenous fashion is the future of the Australian fashion industry, and what an honor to be featured as the first Indigenous runway show at AAFW’s 25th anniversary, amplifying Indigenous voices for the next generation and chapter in AAFW history.”
IMG’s The Suites will not be FNFD’s only showroom option at the event.
Under a separate partnership with the online showroom Ordre.com, within hours of FNFD’s June 2 AAFW show, the collections of all eight featured FNFD designers will be available for view on Ordre.com, potentially increasing the designers’ visibility to international retailers — none of whom will be flying to Sydney this year, due to ongoing travel restrictions.
According to Ordre.com cofounder and chief executive officer Simon Lock, Ordre’s virtual resort 2021 showroom collaboration with the Australian Fashion Council last year led to direct engagement with 400 of Ordre’s 3,000-strong network of global retail organizations, including Galeries Lafayette, Shinsegae, Intermix, Joyce Boutiques, Net-a-porter and Matchesfashion.com, and generated several million dollars in wholesale orders. The AFC collaboration commenced last May, when the canceled 2020 edition of Australian Fashion Week would have taken place, and showcased the collections of 25 designers.

“Right now, retailers have limited options to attend physical fashion weeks and to attend physical showrooms, so virtual showrooms are proving a great channel to discover new talent,” Lock said. “We’ve seen increased engagement with our global retail network particularly when it comes to reviewing new season collections for new emerging designers.”
Since Australian Fashion Week’s inception in 1996, there has been little Indigenous representation, with only one or two Indigenous brands such as Kooey Swimwear and Desert Designs having previously shown on schedule.
Its profile boosted by the establishment of the short-lived Australian Indigenous Fashion Week in Sydney in 2014, however — which collapsed under debts of 343,000 Australian dollars several months later and was never repeated — the Indigenous fashion sector has since witnessed significant development, with popular fashion shows now key components of Indigenous art showcases such as the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair and the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair.
The past 18 months have seen the launch of FNFD and the latter’s First Nations Fashion Council, as well as the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair Foundation’s Indigenous Fashion Projects initiative, which last year staged the first National Indigenous Fashion Awards and also unveiled an Indigenous fashion incubator program with the David Jones department store chain.
Neither IMG nor Indigenous Fashion Projects responded to questions about a separate Indigenous fashion showcase that WWD understands IFP is planning to stage at AAFW on June 3, showcasing an additional five designers, including Maara Collective and Ngali.
Headed by former Australian Fashion Council CEO David Giles-Kaye, Indigenous Fashion Projects had originally been due to stage a multibrand show at Australian Fashion Week in 2020, but it was shelved when the event was canceled due to COVID-19.

These 5 Black Designers Bring Multicultural Point of View to Milan Fashion Week

These 5 Black Designers Bring Multicultural Point of View to Milan Fashion Week

MILAN — “If in September they just introduced themselves, this time they really opened the doors on their creativity to showcase their vision,” said Stella Jean, referring to the five emerging designers who participated to the “We Are Made in Italy — The Fab Five Bridge Builders” project aimed at boosting diversity and multiculturalism within the Italian fashion industry.
The five designers, all born in different African countries and residing in Italy, showcased their work through a digital runway show, presented by Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana’s Black Lives Matter in Italy Fashion Collective, which includes Jean herself, designer Edward Buchanan and Michelle Francine Ngonmo, founder of the Afro Fashion Association.

“This historic fact gives hope to multiethnic stars, who call Italy home and hold this wonderful country in their hearts,” commented Ngonmo. “The message is loud and clear, the Italian fashion system is not only a global leader in fashion, but is also now ready to address the challenging issues of diversity, inclusivity and racial equity.”
According to Jean, this second iteration of the project brought to the table a key, new thing: The collaboration with a network of Italian manufacturing companies that worked hand in hand with the emerging designers to craft their collections.

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“It’s really great how these companies welcomed these designers with different backgrounds, giving them incredible access to the secrets of the Made in Italy, which is something they are so proud of, living in our country,” said Jean. “I really hope that people will look beyond the collections, beyond the shows, to understand the incredible value of the real change that is happening.”
For their collections, which will be available for preorder at the Afro Fashion website starting from this week, the designers collaborated with high-end manufacturers and textile specialists, including Ratti and Taroni.
Stella Jean  Courtesy of Stella Jean

“I really believe that things are moving forward, in a very fast way. Change was imperative and I’m glad that people didn’t indulge into that type of gradualism, so typical of our culture,” said Jean. She was very impressed by their desire to highlight their roots but also their desire to show they belong to the made in Italy system, which, living in Italy, they feel in the air. “They are the symbol of a healthy multicultural approach that promotes the dialogue with the other without negating its identity.”
As the video streamed on the Italian fashion chamber’s Milan Fashion Week digital platform suggested, the five designers will give way to five others, who will unveil their collections in September. “I cannot reveal too much, but we will give voice to other minorities, both religious and ethnic,” said Jean, adding that starting from September, Milan Fashion Week will host an international edition of the “Fab Five” project, which every season will have as protagonists designers coming from different countries.
“For the first edition we will start from Africa, with the goal of showing the richness of the continent’s different countries,” Jean revealed, adding that she hopes this will help destroy some clichés that Western culture developed around Africa.

In addition, the new five international designers will share knowledge about heritage practices and techniques that are quintessentially sustainable.
“Companies tend to invest such big resources in finding new sustainable solutions, when in the world we have already so many antique techniques that use what Mother Earth gives us,” said Jean.
Here are the five talents spotlighted by the “We Are Made in Italy — The Fab Five Bridge Builders” project.
Claudia Gisèle Ntsama  Simone Lezzi/WWD

Brand: Claudia Gisèle Ntsama 
Designer: Claudia Gisèle Ntsama 
Background: Born in Cameroon, Ntsama studied fashion in her native country. After moving to Italy, she attended the Art Academy in Bologna and through the Erasmus student exchange program she had the chance to attend classes focused on textile design at Strasbourg’s “Haute Ecole des Arts du Rhin.”
Core business: The study of fibers sits at the core of the brand. “When I was studying in Strasbourg, I had the chance to learn more about noble fibers, including hemp, and I fell in love with that,” said the designer. “I think that people really don’t know how great it is and my goal is to showcase how it can be used in different ways, also within the fashion industry.” Ntsama, who said she is very much inspired for her creations by contemporary art and by Japanese designers, such as Yohji  Yamamoto or Rei Kawakubo, also put a lot of attention into artisanal, handmade craftsmanship.
Fall 2021 look: Ntsama presented a chic, creative collection focused on knitwear. Entirely crafted from hemp yarns, the lineup featured a range of feminine separates and dresses showing intriguing tactile textures. The palette includes neutrals, such as whites and beiges, mixed with purple and saffron yellow.

Karim Daoudi  Simone Lezzi/WWD

Brand: Karim Daoudi
Designer: Karim Daoudi
Background: Born in Morocco, Daoudi studied at the Cercal footwear school in San Mauro Pascoli, the heart of Italy’s shoe district. In 2017, Daoudi, who works in a company in the sector, established his namesake footwear label. The same year he won a talent contest promoted by Federmoda Roma and showcased his collection at The One Milano trade show. In 2019, he took part to the “Fashion Graduate Italia” show.
Core business: Offering a mix of feminine elegance and comfort, the Karim Daoudi brand offers luxury shoes crafted in Italy. Experimenting with colors and materials, the designer’s collections stand out with a glamorous, slightly eccentric look.
Fall 2021 look: Inspired by the colors of the jungle, Daoudi presented a collection centered on bright tones of green and hot pink mixed with refined black-and-white combinations. Styles spanned from pumps, and booties enriched with eye-catching toe caps to sexy cage boots.

Fabiola Manirakiza  Simone Lezzi/WWD

Brand: Frida-Kiza
Designer: Fabiola Manirakiza
Background: Born in Burundi, Manirakiza fell in love with fashion during the years she spent in an orphanage in Zaire. “The nuns were teaching us to make our own dolls, but also to sew our clothes,” said the designer, who studied medicine but never stopped making her own fashion items. When she moved to Italy with her sister, she took part in events aimed at raising awareness of the conditions of orphanages in Africa and one day met a TV journalist who fell in love with the handmade dress she was wearing. Orders from friends started coming and, while helping another designer with sales campaigns in Paris, she established the Frida-Kiza label in 2016.
Core business: “I look at Italian art through the eyes of an African,” said Manirakiza, who aims to offer timeless pieces combining elegance and comfort. The designer likes to work with mannish, essential silhouettes that she enriches with vibrant prints.
Fall 2021 look: For fall 2021, the designer got inspired by Botticelli’s “Spring” painting to create a lovely pattern in which a Renaissance aesthetic met images of African everyday scenes. The overall print was splashed on a feminine shirtdress, on a minidress and on a fluid pajama set, while a sophisticated slick wool suit was worked in a timeless black tone.

Pepe Macodou Fall  Pepe Macodou Fall

Brand: Mokodu
Designer: Pepe Macodou Fall
Background: Born in Senegal to a family of diplomats, Fall started his career as a cartoonist. When he moved to Rome, he worked as an actor and a film producer. His passion for figurative arts pushed him to start doing paintings inspired by the iconic figures of the African renaissance that were showcased in prestigious exhibitions in Rome, Paris and Dakar. In 2017 he met the founder of the Afro Fashion Association and decided to launch his first fashion collection.
Core business: “My goal is to bring fashion into art,” said the designer, who uses his painting skills to give an artistic, distinctive look to men’s and women’s upcycled garments.
Fall 2021 look: For Milan Fashion Week, Fall created a capsule collection, where jungle-inspired images, as well as portraits of prominent African personalities, including Nelson Mandela and Miriam Makeba, were painted in vibrant tones on a range of upcycled items and accessories, including  a jumpsuit, a mannish suit, an A-line coat and a sheath dress.

Joy Ijeoma Meribe  Simone Lezzi/WWD

Brand: Joy Meribe
Designer: Joy Ijeoma Meribe
Background: After studying foreign languages and literature in her native country, Nigeria, Meribe moved to Italy where she specialized in linguistic and cultural mediation. However, led by a strong passion for fashion, she decided to attend a fashion school in Modena and Bologna. In 2017, she established her namesake brand.
Core business: Deeply inspired by powerful women, Meribe through her collections wants to celebrate her African roots while anchoring them in a cosmopolitan image. Working with feminine silhouettes, she likes to play with applications to convey a joyful fashion message.
Fall 2021 look: For the capsule she presented at Milan Fashion Week, Meribe was supported for pattern making by San Andres’ founder and creative director Andrés Caballero, while Taroni provided her with precious silk. The noble material was crafted in feminine pieces, such as a coat showing a lightweight padding, an elegant one-shouldered jumpsuit with a multicolor application and a multilayered skirt worn with a soft blouse. Some of the proceeds from the collection’s sales will be destined to a scholarship for young Nigerian women.

Why Fashion is More Political Now Than Ever Before

Why Fashion is More Political Now Than Ever Before

Fashion has turned its spotlight on politics, with designers harnessing their power to call attention to social issues.
Chanel Spring/Summer fashion show in Paris. 

The time to remain apolitical or risk losing valued customers is here – and designers around the world are shouting loudly, supporting human rights, and picking political sides. Many brands want to be on what they perceive as the right side of history when it comes to politics. In the run-up to the recent US presidential election, 19 designers – including Vera Wang, Joseph Altuzarra, and Tory Burch – launched the collaborative Believe in Better collection in support of presidential candidate Joe Biden.
Designer Tory Burch wears her Believe in Better, T-shirt. Photo: Supplied

Others have been vocal about social issues such as systemic racism. When the American football player Colin Kaepernick knelt during the US national anthem at the start of his NFL games in 2016, in protest against police brutality and racial inequality, the country erupted into furious debate.
In 2018, Nike followed with an advertising campaign featuring Kaepernick with the text, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” In response, some Nike fans took to social media with videos of them burning their once-beloved kicks, and the hashtag #BoycottNike began to trend. The brand had transitioned from being not just something to wear, but a way of pledging political allegiance. Others stayed on the sidelines, waiting to see if Nike would come out on top financially. Despite an initial dip in its share price after the campaign was launched, Nike sales increased by more than 30% the following year.
Celebrities like Jennifer Aniston have been encouraging Americans to vote in the recent election.

Protests against long-simmering racial inequality in the US seems to have lit a fuse with brands, precipitated by the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis in May this year. “Following the death of George Floyd, we saw that the public is not afraid to voice their intolerance toward racism and that set in motion the movements we’ve seen recently to challenge discrimination in all its forms,” says Sanjay Bhandari, chair of Kick It Out, a UK-based organization that fights discrimination in English football. “Brands have been aligning themselves with well-known figures and influencers to show support for the likes of Black Lives Matter, as a way of pledging their solidarity and commitment against racism.”
Celebrities like Vogue US Cover Star Lizzo, have been encouraging Americans to vote in the recent election. 

Support through fashion is apparent in other areas of inequality, too. In 2017, after the rise of the #MeToo movement, designers around the world projected feminism and female empowerment to reflect the sentiment of the era. Actresses wore all-black at the 2018 Golden Globes Awards, Egyptian designer Rana Yousry showcased her Black Rose line at Arab fashion week that same year displaying themes of feminism, strength, and power, and Saudi designer Arwa Al Banawi dressed the Saudi women’s soccer team for the 2019 Global Goals World Cup in Copenhagen.
“Fashion reflects what’s ‘now.’ For it to have power and feel right, it has to speak to what is going on more broadly,” says Dr Rosie Findlay, course leader in fashion cultures at London College of Fashion. But sometimes, brand’s signatures are adopted by less-than-desirable demographics.
In the 90s, the signature Burberry check was associated with football hooligans in Europe, and more recently, a US far-right group appropriated a black and yellow polo shirt by Fred Perry. It’s not the first time the British brand has been commandeered by the far-right – it was a favorite of skinheads in the 60s and 70s, too. Fred Perry quickly withdrew the polo shirt from sale and released a statement disavowing its use by far-right groups, saying, “They have absolutely nothing to do with us, and we are working with our lawyers to pursue any unlawful use of our brand.”
“Some business decisions seem very driven by what is moral and ethical,” says Findlay, citing the example of French brand Maison Cléo. “It is constantly advocating for slow fashion and educating its followers about the unsustainability of the fast-fashion system.” Fashion has always been one way of uniting people, but, Bhandari says, “we need to see more from some brands in terms of their commitment.” He continues, “We also need to see them making a positive contribution to society and their local communities.” In terms of racial inequalities, brands need to be “looking inside their organizations and developing long-term plans for social inclusion and racial equality so that they foster a more inclusive environment and attract a more diverse workforce,” Bhandari says. In an age of such political extremes, it seems fashion, which moves and evolves with the times, must speak louder and be more politically brazen than ever.
Read Next: How Footwear Designer Amina Muaddi Created a Pandemic-Proof Collection
Originally published in the November 2020 issue of Vogue Arabia.

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