A collective of 30 Asian-owned fashion, beauty and lifestyle brands have banded together to donate a percentage of their sales to support nonprofits that support the Asian communities.
Each participant in the AAPI Heritage Month Impact Initiative has vowed to donate 20 percent of their sales this month to an assortment of organizations including AAPI Women Lead, Stop AAPI Hate, Heart of Dinner and Project Lotus.
The initiative is being organized by Revisionary, a platform dedicated to amplifying brands owned by people of color. (The organization isn’t taking any commission from the effort.) Revisionary founder Anu Lingala developed the concept and researched and curated the AAPI-owned brands “whose visions aligned with our missions.”
Not many fashion and beauty brands, as Lingala pointed out, have done activations in honor of May’s AAPI Heritage Month. Despite the efforts of Asian American leaders like Prabal Gurung and Phillip Lim, to name just two, the fashion and beauty industries “have overall not stepped up to advocate for Asian American communities as they continue to experience a surge in hate crimes,” Lingala said.
Earlier this week, two Asian women were the subject of what has become increasing hate crimes across the U.S. One of those women, 84 years old, was attacked by a man with a military-type knife in broad daylight in San Francisco. Police arrested Patrick Thompson, who has been charged with attempted murder. In New York City alone, the NYPD said in a report Monday that hate crimes against Asian people have seen a 400 percent increase year-over-year.
Fashion and beauty brands’ lack of action to support Asian communities “only scratches the surface of deep-rooted issues,” according to Lingala. The fashion and beauty industries have contributed to creating “problematic narratives that undermine Asian American communities,” she said, citing Vogue’s 2017 geisha-inspired editorial featuring Karlie Kloss, a Dolce & Gabbana 2018 ad campaign that mocked Chinese culture and last year’s “fox eye” beauty trend as examples. (Kloss apologized in 2017, as did Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana the following year.)
Most recently, the DJ Michel Gaubert faced a social media backlash for showcasing paper masks depicting slanted eyes on social media, which were decried as racist by industry influencers Susanne Lau and Bryan Grey Yambao, among others. But Chanel has accepted his public apology and hired Gaubert for its resort 2022 show earlier this week. Subsequently, Bruno Pavlovsky, president of fashion and president of Chanel SAS, has been criticized for stating in a WWD article earlier this week that the company will continue to work with Gaubert. The executive acknowledged that Chanel does not tolerate any form of racism.
Referring to Chanel’s acceptance of Gaubert’s apology, Lingala said, “This clearly illustrates the industry’s tendency to minimize and overlook blatant racism against Asian communities and consumers are increasingly aware of this.”
For the AAPI Heritage Month Impact Initiative, Lingala set out to create a full assortment of companies that would reflect the vast Asian communities. As a South-Asian woman, Lingala said she ensured that a diversity of Asian experiences would be represented. Having completed a similar program for Black History Month, she was able to share archived materials and “successful results” with the business owners whom she approached.
Lingala took the time to meet with many of the interested brands, although some were not able to participate. “These are small emerging businesses and a 20 percent donation is a significant proportion of their sales,” she said.
One of the objectives of the AAPI platform is to encourage consumers and Revisionary’s mission is to encourage people to think critically about how they shop, what they buy, who they buy from and where their dollars are going.
“We believe that by reframing our aesthetic vision to center diverse perspectives, we can begin to decolonize what we deem aspirational,” Lingala said.
By creating a centralized platform, the aim is to simplify finding Asian-owned brands and supporting the AAPI communities. KKCO, Abacaxi, BonBonWhims, Cie Cosmetics, Selfmade, Mount Lai, Maaari, Ettitude and The Qi are among the participants. Online shoppers can browse by category, price range and other filters. Each brand selected which nonprofit to support and several chose the same ones. Eight brands, for example, have earmarked sales for Heart of Dinner, which works to combat food insecurity and isolation within NYC’s elderly Asian community, and five others are supporting Project Lotus, which uses education to help advance the Asian community and battle against mental health.
To help shoppers take on a more activist role, Revisionary has a newsletter that addresses topics like decolonization, intersectional sustainability and cultural appropriation. “But instead of taking a distant academic approach, we bring these topics back to reality, highlighting how people can rethink and adjust their shopping habits in consideration of sociocultural contexts,” Lingala said.
Addressing how to end the problem of the lack of representation of Asian leaders and creatives in the industry, Lingala said the fashion and beauty sectors need to critically examine their involvement in perpetuating imperialist structures of power. “There also needs to be more AAPI representation in executive leadership including a diversity within Asian representation that includes East, Southeast and South Asian leaders,” she said.
“Whether it’s industry professionals, brands or consumers, it’s most important that we build our own spaces where we can stand in solidarity with one another to create the change we want to see,” she continued. “Revisionary aims to be one of these spaces.”