We can do better than #GrabYourWallet. While dozens of brands have come under fire for their associations with an inept president still tied firmly to all of his businesses, critique is rare for the shortcomings of #GrabYourWallet. How can Shannon Coulter ask woke consumers to boycott Hudson’s Bay, Lord & Taylor, and Saks Off Fifth, but not to boycott Saks Fifth Avenue, when these brands are all divisions of the same company? The fact that all of the boycotted divisions are mid-priced and discount retailers, while the higher-end division is excluded from boycott, seems to highlight a class divide more than a social justice crusade. Similarly, why would Coulter ask woke consumers to boycott Neiman Marcus, but not it’s elitist, classist subsidiary Bergdorf Goodman? This kind of movement is, at best, tone deaf and an enabler of classist ideas that consumers shouldn’t buy “poor” when they could buy luxury (in an industry already marred by economic inequality in various stories of international sweatshop labor, poor benefits for domestic store and corporate employees, and high markups that benefit mostly executive management). In other words, it’s like how the #DeleteUber campaign indirectly benefited two Trump advisors with minority stakes in Lyft. Truly woke consumers should bypass the whole network of direct and indirect Trump profiteers. Here are a few suggestions how:
1. Buy Only Brands that Have Made an Official Statement
Sophie Theallet, Marc Jacobs, and Humberto Leon (of Opening Ceremony and Kenzo) have all made public statements unequivocally refusing to dress Melania Trump. Diane von Furstenberg, who originally supported dressing Melania, has recently flip-flopped following the #MuslimBan in an email to BoF, writing, “The fashion industry has always been [about] inclusion and diversity. . . I am personally horrified to see what is going on.”
Although many other fashion houses and brands have remained silent, a few have followed the public statements of Silicon Valley brands – Microsoft, Apple, Google – and other high-profile industry brands – Starbucks, Coca-Cola – to express their disagreement with the exclusionary policies – including Phillip Lim and Kering Group’s CEO Francois Henri Pinault – . with some creative directors even publicly protesting, such as Public School’s Dao-Yi Chow. Is it really worth it to support brands that are unwilling to use the public forum to make culture more progressive? With the proliferation of social media profiles, it’s easier than ever before to really know what your favorite brands stand for.
2. Go Local
Support your local designers and boutique owners. Universities, especially design schools, usually have student designer showcases or a network of student- and alumni-run organizations with talented artisans. For New York or LA locals, visit Artists&Fleas, which allows access to many local vendors, or just walk around the various side streets in the Lower East Side or along Bedford Ave. Artisan markets are gaining more popularity in cities from Chicago to LA, and even Honolulu. Visit local boutiques and, for the more eco-conscious, local consignment stores. The owners of these small businesses are usually on premises, and having a conversation with the them or the store attendants will not only give you fashion and style insights, but also insights into what the brand or retailer stands for, politically and aesthetically.
3. Consume Less, or Ideally, Consume Rarely
The cold hard truth is that capitalism breeds inequality and ecological damage. While we can’t really escape this system that’s been in place for centuries, even millennia, we can be more conscious about only consuming when necessary. Define your personal style that stands outside of the trend driven fashion cycle. Buy quality pieces that stand the test of time and that define your signature style. Not only will you emerge naturally more fashionable, but you’ll be proving that you actually give a fuck.