As global fashion players address racial inequality after the death of George Floyd and the ensuing protests it set off in the US and around the world, some Chinese designers have also spoken up about social injustice and how they contribute to the movement.
Angel Chen, the Shanghai-based Chinese designer who launched a new Adidas collaboration on June 1, went straight to her brand’s 139,000 Instagram followers, saying, “The black community has been an ally to the brand since its launch, and it is our turn to show up. It is not ok to stay silent.” In a series of three posts, the brand showed a screenshot of its financial contribution to blacklivesmatter.org and encouraged its followers to donate as well.
Brands like Berlin and Shanghai-based Ximon Lee and New York-based Private Policy, which was founded by designers Haoran Li and Siying Qu, are among those that also took a stand on social media. Meanwhile, Samuel Yang and Wanbing Huang followed the lead of #blackoutTuesday last week as a way to express solidarity with the black community.
In a homogeneous nation where, according to China’s National Bureau of Statistics, over 90 percent of the citizens are of Han ethnicity, it’s fair to say that racism is a foreign notion to most Chinese consumers. But racism does exist in China, and when Guangzhou police evacuated much of the African community during COVID-19, it caused international outrage.
Western brands and celebrities have the power to help Chinese people understand this issue. George Floyd’s death only caught the attention of Weibo users when Western celebrities posted black squares for #blackoutTuesday, and the topic “European and US celebrities post black squares” (#欧美明星集体发纯黑图片) moved to No.1 on Weibo last Tuesday, even though Instagram has been blocked in China since 2014.
As much of the new wave of Chinese designers were educated overseas and have customers abroad, it makes sense from the brand’s perspective to join with industry players and speak up. But the societal role of those brands extends beyond that. Their allyship with the #blacklivesmatter movement could educate young Chinese fans about these issues and prove that these brands can shoulder their share of social responsibility as members of the global fashion world.