IT IS an open letter, penned for the pages of W Magazine, but aimed at the fashion world at large and its message is clear: Black Lives Matter.
DKNY designer and co-founder of label Public School Maxwell Osborne today opened his heart to the designers, models, journalists and manufacturers of the industry to explain why he stands with the Black Lives Matter movement and why others should get on board.
While there’s no doubt his powerful and raw message will speak to fashion’s elite, it’s also clear his intended audience will be surpassed in a matter of hours as people start to take note from across the globe and outside of our industry.Osborne speaks of his own experience with the Black Lives Matter movement as he describes his first protest he attended at Union Square.
He speaks warmly of the people, who he said had joined in unity in a “peaceful protest” of the fatal shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.
“For a while now, I have been touched by Black Lives Matter. For three years, its members have taken to the streets and – quietly, defiantly – staged protest after protest after protest and, despite a still-roiling, they have not tired,” he wrote.
“They continue to raise questions that we as a country need to ask ourselves and they have reminded a community that the deaths of their own will not be forgotten, nor will they be in vain.
“I felt I needed to be out there with Black Lives Matter, show face and feel it.”The 33-year-old wrote that the experience was so powerful, the feeling of unity gave him goosebumps.
“We were all standing together, side by side, a bunch of strangers chanting the same thing: Black. Lives. Matter,” he wrote.
Osborne goes on to explain a little more about why he felt compelled to share his views on the Black Lives Matter movement and how, working as a designer had kept race front of mind.
“As a black man in an overwhelmingly white industry, race is never far from my mind. But the Black Lives Matter movement has underscored the still astounding disparities African Americans face – at their homes, at their places of business, at the voting booth. While the civil rights movement has made incredible strides, the statistics continue to be staggering: One in three black men can expect to go to prison in their lifetime; black criminal offenders are more likely to get longer sentences than their white counterparts; young African Americans are two fifths of all youth inmates.
“I could keep going. If you read the news and the countless op-eds long enough, you’ll have your pick of numbers to choose from and new sobering statistics that you won’t want to believe will inevitably pop up. You’ll want to throw your hands in the air and resign yourself to the easy crutch that there’s little for us to do from our perch in the comfortable seat of fashion except make clothes.
“But I write this open letter to encourage the fashion industry to not just continue the dialogue of race in America, but to do something about it. Fashion exists in a world of make believe. Our job is to offer an escape from everyday life and a fantasy of glamour and beautiful clothes. It’s easy to forget the real world with its very real problems. But it doesn’t have to be that way.”
“Let’s not turn our backs on the young black men and women of tomorrow.”
A powerful message, from a powerful industry insider. It seems it’s time to listen.
You can read the whole letter here.