Appalled by the mob that stormed Capitol Hill on Wednesday — striking at the heart of American democracy and, for a time, halting the certification of Joe Biden as the next U.S. president — fashion’s and retail’s leaders reacted by giving voice to their worries, their disgust and their hopes for the future.
Whether on social media, in statements to WWD, press releases or missives to their employees, people across the industry issued a strong rebuke to President Donald Trump and the chaos he incited by sending violent supporters to disrupt the House and Senate as they approved Biden’s victory at the polls.
The industry and much of the world seemed both exhausted and enraged after four years of Trump’s iconoclastic style of leadership that is both divorced from reality and outright dishonest. That was reflected in growing calls to remove Trump from power via the 25th Amendment even though he has less than two weeks left in office. It also stirred social media outlets Facebook and Twitter to ban his accounts until at least after the inauguration, while even Shopify disabled two sites selling Trump merchandise. Trump himself on Thursday appeared to finally concede defeat, saying “a new administration will be inaugurated on Jan. 20” in a video message from the White House.
But as the nation braces itself for the end of the Trump administration, there are hints even in the midst of a pandemic that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Stephen Lamar, chief executive officer of the American Apparel & Footwear Association, which has offices just blocks from the Capitol, said: “While this was an assault on democratic institutions and our democracy, hours later, that same democracy showed how resilient it is and how enduring it is.”
He noted that shortly after the violent mob swirled through the halls of the Capitol building, wreaking destruction, lawmakers in the House and Senate “reconvened and they went through about an eight-hour period of counting the votes and certifying the electoral results. They did it in a peaceful way, there were still objections and they went through those objections. There was a process. By midnight, it was a huge vote in favor of our democracy.”
Lamar said Biden, when he does take office, would bring more of a process-oriented approach to trade — a key issue for fashion — and noted, “I don’t think we’re going to see tariff by tweet,” as was the case under Trump. He also expects more emphasis on climate change and an outlook on the economy that strives for more fairness.
Biden will have more than just the economic divide to bridge, however, and will have to battle not only the pandemic but also a large portion of the U.S. population that continues to believe Trump’s falsehoods that the election was “stolen,” even though numerous recounts, courts and other investigations have firmly debunked those claims.
The scene of a mostly white mob laying siege in Washington on behalf of Trump, who has stoked racial tensions, again underscored the work the country has to do to take on systemic racism.
Fear of God’s Jerry Lorenzo posted a message on Instagram “with love and a heavy heart” imploring people not to ask him to explain white privilege, which was on display in the stark contrast between law enforcement’s handling of Wednesday’s mob versus the much more severe treatment of Black Lives Matter protesters last year.
“We all dwell in the same social atmosphere…and I feel the social disadvantage and hindrance of my skin color in this country every day…please do not act like you don’t feel and live in the advantage of yours… every antagonist has a protagonist. Today exposed that truth at the highest level,” Lorenzo wrote.
Here, fashion reacts to an extraordinary time in America’s political life and expresses its hopes for the future.
Tory Burch, executive chairman and chief creative officer, Tory Burch
My hopes for the first year of the Biden administration include well-organized vaccine distribution and an economic stimulus that meets the needs of vulnerable Americans including small businesses owners. The country needs to come together, to heal and to address the enormous challenges we face. We need to take strong action to tackle the spread of misinformation online; it is an important step on our path to a more constructive discourse where we respect people we disagree with and can work across party lines to create better, fairer solutions for everyone.
We hit rock bottom and it needs to be a massive wake-up call. The shock of yesterday’s events must be translated into action and national reconciliation. We have to take advantage of every opportunity we have to create unity over division. The majority of Americans share common values of freedom, fairness, opportunity and respect for the fundamental institutions of our democracy.
Jerry Lorenzo, founder, Fear of God:
Diane von Furstenberg
Diane von Furstenberg
What we saw last night is NOT what Americans and the world know of America. America is resilient and the power of the Constitution will win. In my involvement with the Statue of Liberty, which was a gift to America from the people of France, I learned a lot about the Constitution and its values. It is those values that the French so admired and that is why for the last 200 years, people from all over the world take refuge in America, study in America and aspire to live the American dream. I believe those values will be restored by a shocked Congress and Senate and the unity that will appear with Biden and his administration.
Manny Chirico, chief executive officer and chairman, and Stefan Larsson, president, PVH Corp.
The democratic values of the United States are the foundation of the country’s past, present and future. They allow our communities — and companies like ours — to thrive and make positive impacts. Throughout the global PVH family, we were saddened and unnerved yesterday to see the United States Congress disrupted and the U.S. Capitol a target of violence.
At PVH, we respect the right to protest peacefully and condemn any violence or disruption to these values. We applaud the leaders of the U.S. Congress for not bowing to lawlessness, putting aside their differences and committing to honor the tradition of a peaceful transition of power that is a hallmark of the nation’s almost 250-year history.
Gary Wassner, CEO, Hilldun Corp.
I’m hoping that Biden will bring back a world of compassion and fact-based reasoning. The events in D.C. were appalling. They highlight the enormous disparity of belief in our society today, as well as the dangerous influence seriously flawed leadership can have on unsuspecting and vulnerable individuals looking to ameliorate their anger and fear.
Facts must be facts. The news should report facts, not opinion. Leave that to the opinion columnists and hosts. Biden must reinstate the vital importance of truth and integrity. If our society continues to believe in two diametrically opposed “realities,” then there’s no possibility of reconciliation. Without a common starting point for debate, we cannot make any progress. Social media is a blessing and a curse. It’s unrestrained and can be incredibly informative as well as dangerously misleading and provocative. Hate, confrontation and bigotry have become the guiding principles of our current administration, veiled in MAGA rhetoric. It has to end. Leadership is by example and our current example is shameful.
Kenneth Cole, founder and chief creative officer, Kenneth Cole Productions
I believe President-elect Biden understands his biggest challenge will be to unite the states of America. Our country needs a dignified leader who knows that there are no red states and blue states; they are all red, white and blue states. I am looking forward to seeing him focus on the collective health of our planet and the physical and mental health of its inhabitants.
Steven Kolb, CEO, the Council of Fashion Designers of America
Speaking on behalf of the American fashion industry, I look to the incoming Biden administration to consider issues key to the survival and rejuvenation of the fashion and retail sectors, which both suffered greatly due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Specifically, I hope to see an extension of COVID-19 financial relief programs to ensure continuous employment and operations. The majority of CFDA members are small, independent brands, which are still severely challenged by the pandemic. Additionally, reducing duties and tariffs in our industry is key to our long-term success and viability, as is support on trademark, copyright and design piracy protection which is an issue domestically and overseas and especially in China.
We also need to reform immigration policies by expanding visas for high-skilled workers, creating visas so that foreign-born entrepreneurs can build companies here, and establishing a process for undocumented immigrants to earn legal status. The industry would benefit from the support of the Department of Commerce and tax incentives to manufacture in the U.S. and also incentives developed in support of sustainable business practices.
It was difficult to see yesterday’s events unfold, but I was encouraged to see Congress return to work and certify the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as our next president and vice president. My hopes for the next few weeks are that we as a country come together for our common good, and I believe that President-elect Biden’s continued messaging is already putting us on that path.
As a Black man in American I have learned to realize “that you get what you get and don’t be upset,” but hoping that Biden brings what America has been missing since Day One…LOVE for the human race.
Edvin Thompson, Theophilio
My feelings were so displaced. I was caught in a place where my anger became numb. Seeing white privilege wear its sick face time and time again. Numb to the thought that those rioters and thugs would be treated just as I and other Black people who have been abused by law enforcement for something so simple as to be asleep in my own home. Even in that displaced feeling I was so embarrassed of how the world was looking at us, “the free world,” land of the American Dream. It was a complete nightmare. Joe Biden is preserving hope. I think the best thing America can do is hold him accountable every step of the way with his promises. Jan. 6, 2021 will be in the history books. How the future will look is the challenge.
Vote! And continue to amplify the voices in our community.
Christyn Breckenridge, 3rdEyeView
Yesterday’s [Wednesday’s] terrorist coup proved the racist double standard in this country. I was just numb watching the TV because it’s day seven of 2021 and here we are. The WORLD was watching. The world needed to see this. Biden has good intentions but it’s going to take far more than the “we’re better than this America” speech to make this nation better.
Christina Tung, SVNR
Yesterday’s acts of domestic terrorism and insurrection by white mobs without fear of reprisal, let alone risk of bodily harm or death, should shock the conscience of the nation but instead it only reinforces what we’ve known since colonization — our entire political system and governance was designed to perpetuate and protect white power, wealth and status.
After moving through many difficult personal emotions of helplessness, confusion, anger, disgust, shock and nonshock, I am holding onto a slice of hope that the glaring contrast between police response to Black Lives Matter protests last summer and the domestic terrorism of yesterday, the blatant illegal attempt to eradicate democratic processes, and the toxic display of white privilege will shake people out of their apathy and inaction and inspire the majority to organize and collaborate effectively.
I hold hope that Biden and Harris, through their leadership and example, can begin to undo the normalization and effects of the current government encouragement of extremist behavior and tackle head on the dismantling of systemic racism in every facet of society starting with strategic reallocation of law enforcement funding.
Jazmin Veney, Arch NYC
For me yesterday was a sad reminder that we have work to do. America has always had work to do, but yesterday’s events made it clear that nothing has been learned from the unrest of summer 2020. To call the events that took place at the Capitol “protests” and to categorize it as anything other than domestic terrorism is a complete disregard for what Black Lives Matter is, for the lives that were lost senselessly, unjustly because of police brutality, to those across the entire world who risked their lives during a pandemic because their need to fight for justice was greater. We have no true leadership in this country and while I don’t think that the change that is needed starts and ends with a president or vice president, we can clearly see how much of an impact the current leadership has had on U.S. citizens.
Where I expect Joe Biden to make an impact is by holding people accountable. I can imagine that it’s difficult to hold people who look like you and expect you to support them regardless of their decisions accountable, but we haven’t for so long and that is why we are here. The beginning of the end of white privilege could start here. If not with this example then when? Because it gets no clearer than yesterday. Hold people accountable for their violent, disrespectful and racists actions. Hold the police accountable for their lack thereof in this specific situation. Why does the rule protect and serve garner a different reaction depending on who they are protecting and serving? Why are Black people able to be mourning, grieving, and angry over the lives lost from our communities, for no reason but able to hold peaceful, respectful and nonviolent protests? Only for them to be twisted, mocked, called riots, and put on display as “what not to do.”
I’m not looking to any politician to have all the answers and undo the complete underlying makeup of America, but I am looking for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to start by using their new platform to impact real and evident change so the Black community can begin to feel supported.
Theresa Ebagua, founder of Chelsea Paris
I’m in disbelief, stunned by the audacity of the insurrectionists who partook in the unruly desecration of the Capitol building. Watching the destruction unfold, I could not help but wonder: What if these were bodies like mine? Would the response be the same? On some level, we all know the answer to my questions. Just last summer, we witnessed peaceful, BLM protesters met with brute resistance. This week’s incident has magnified the biases at play in our society.
As a designer who values and celebrates cultural differences, it saddens me to see America fractured in this way. We have to maintain hope for a better tomorrow. We’re all one people and as President-elect Biden continuously echoes, we are the “United States.”
With his political knowledge and experience navigating terrains of grief, Biden is uniquely equipped to be a point of unity and reason. Restoration won’t come easy; still, if there is someone who can bridge the gap to facilitate healing and reconciliation. I believe Biden can be that person.
I think we have all experienced what extreme political polarization can do to any community. Wednesday’s event is a direct result of that. I believe President Biden’s first task is to find a way to unite the American people again and to redefine what it means to be American.
Christian Juul Nielsen, Aknvas
Wednesday’s actions at the Capitol were upsetting in many ways. I’m hopeful for President-elect Biden to unite the country and to move forward peacefully.
Yesterday was a blatant display of white supremacy and privilege disguised as “protest.” We witnessed domestic terrorism, met with a lack of urgency from our capital’s security.
As a Black person, seeing last night’s display was not surprising. In fact, it was the perfect example of what we grow up inherently knowing.…Actions have varying degrees of consequences, solely based on the color of our skin.
As a nation, we are far from equality. Systemic racism, suppression and oppression have been embedded into the very fabric of this country and the way it works. Black and brown people are reminded almost daily that we are not as valuable, and definitely not the priority in this nation (especially within the justice system).
When Joe Biden begins his presidency, it’s imperative he begins to address and dismantle all platforms that have been tainted by white supremacy. Justice reform, prison reform, education reform and more need to be tackled. Action needs to be taken to ensure Black safety, progression and prosperity. Biden needs to realize that America needs to protect and respect the very people that built this country. He also needs to make sure white supremacist are not able to easily scale a wall and walk right into the nation’s Capitol.…All while BLM protesters are tear gassed, maced and arrested for peacefully taking up space in their neighborhoods.
America, do better.
I couldn’t help but see it as slave owners burning down the plantations. White supremacists attacking the system that supports white supremacy.
But at our core we must remain vigilant in our belief in the good in one another.
Biden must work to make the country a beacon of hope instead of a bastion of hate.
Biden can begin the hope of a course correction for the country by holding the current president accountable to the laws of the land.
I am horrified but sadly unsurprised by the failed insurrection attempt led by Trump yesterday. It also clearly illustrates once again how there are two types of law enforcement in this country: one where there is an outsized show of force often resulting in the senseless deaths of Black and Americans [of color], and then the type we saw on display yesterday where white privilege results not only in the restrained use of force but a failure to arrest or stop dangerous white people blatantly breaking laws. I believe that President-elect Biden must direct the Justice Department to pursue criminal charges against anyone who participated in the ransacking of the Capitol. Biden must also make good on his campaign promise to address the systemic racism within law enforcement and the criminal justice system. I also hope that Trump will be held accountable for the numerous laws he has surely broken during his time in office and that the Republican leaders who have supported his baseless claims of voter fraud that directly resulted in yesterday’s violence will be held accountable at the ballot box.
Clare Ngai, founder and designer of Bonbonwhims
Seeing what happened yesterday was terrifying and infuriating. As a woman of color and an immigrant to this country, I know the consequences would have been drastically different had the perpetrators been people of color. We all need to rise up, be vocal and proactively do something tangible to help. Especially within the fashion industry — many have the tendency to sit back and observe — it’s no longer enough and far from enough. As a small brand, I continue to donate to organizations [run by Black, Indigenous and people of color] and hope it can help make a difference, and I urge others to do the same.
It’s disgusting to see the cops behaving the way they did. The imbalance is truly shocking, yet not surprising. As for the “protesters,” call ’em what they are. Terrorists.
Deirdre Quinn, cofounder and CEO, Lafayette 148
As a business owner, I look to President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris to help restore stability in the economy and the country — from further economic stimulus, to effective and equitable vaccine distribution. There has never been a more critical moment for our country to come together. We have a lot of work to do and their leadership is vital to help build us back as one nation. This country is built by immigrants — my parents are both immigrants, my business partners are immigrants — and I’m certain that having leaders who value, respect and protect our immigrants will make us a stronger nation.
I’m truly saddened and disheartened to see how people have treated the institution that safeguards the foundation of this country. We’ve seen extraordinary change happen over the past year. I’ve learned that unprecedented challenges can bring out the best in people, and today I’m hopeful for a more united country — one that is built with kindness and empathy — so that we can once again thrive as a nation that others look up to.
Alex Bolen, CEO, Oscar de la Renta
Due to the pandemic, unemployment in our country remains shockingly high. I wonder if Wednesday would’ve been different if all those who invaded our Capitol had jobs? Hard to say, I guess, and regardless, it’s no excuse for their shameful and terrifying behavior, but lack of work must’ve played a part.
As such, I hope that the Biden administration will make it clear that its top priority is getting people back to work by putting the pandemic behind us. We have the tools — vaccines, motivated and tireless health care professionals, money — now they must be brought to bear in a strong and consistent way.
Mark Walker, CEO, Outerknown
What I want most from President-elect Biden is a fresh perspective. Balance. A real acceptance of the facts and issues that need to be solved. Outerknown was started with a purpose to solve the institutional errors that have been created over decades of apparel production. It is hard to solve the problems that exist if you pretend or don’t acknowledge they are real. Human rights, climate change and waste are all real issues that we can change if we hold up a mirror and truthfully own the issues and then try to solve them. I also urge inclusion. Bring in more people who have real information on the issues so it is educated dialogue. Sometimes, great leaders need to stop and listen before they just speak.
The only word I can use to describe yesterday’s events would be “embarrassed.” I think we all asked ourselves multiple times “is this really happening” or “is this the United States Capitol?” I hope we can minimize the damage that can still be done before the inauguration and hold people accountable for their roles in yesterday’s events. It’s concerning that different people get different treatment and is important that all people are held accountable to the same level. We need to move forward together but that is only possible if it is truly a “we” and not “you and I.”
Patrik Frisk, CEO, Under Armour Inc.
The violence and unrest at the U.S. Capitol today [Wednesday] put our country’s values into question. But what’s not a question is there are better ways to lift up America. Under Armour stands for a peaceful and orderly transition of power. What we do today sets the course for tomorrow. Democracy is a team sport.
Brian Dodge, president, the Retail Industry Leaders Association
It is clear our nation has a long road ahead to repair the division that manifested itself today in our nation’s capital, but it starts with acknowledging that free and fair elections must be respected, regardless of the outcome. It’s time for men and women of goodwill in government to denounce the conspiracy theories and cancerous rhetoric employed by those cravenly attempting to capitalize on political chaos. All those trafficking in sedition must be rebuked.
We appreciate the strong words from President-elect Biden, and urge all members of Congress to follow his lead in denouncing violence, and respecting the Constitution and the rule of law.
Andrew Meslow, CEO of L Brands Inc. and Bath & Body Works
We unequivocally condemn the criminal actions of those who have put our elected officials and other lives at risk and our country in the spotlight in this way. This is not who we are as a nation.
While this is a unique moment in our country, remember that Americans have been holding elections and conveying power between parties peacefully for almost 250 years. We have successfully voted during the Civil War, two World Wars and other crises. In this time of uncertainty, we each need to recommit to our values, civility and mutual respect.
While this is a dark moment in our history, this nation has a long record of shining moments through difficult times and we will continue to have them. Our democracy was built for this.
Matthew Shay, president and CEO, National Retail Federation
For more than two centuries we have prided ourselves as Americans on our democratic principles, our nation of laws and the unique experience of peaceful transfers of power from one administration to the next, regardless of party affiliation.
This is a sad and distressing day for our country. For more than two centuries we have prided ourselves as Americans on our democratic principles, our nation of laws and the unique experience of peaceful transfers of power from one administration to the next, regardless of party affiliation.
Our retailers, the millions of associates they employ and the communities they serve across the country want and need our elected officials to focus on the priorities that ensure faith in our government through stability. Today’s [Wednesday’s] riots are repugnant and fly in the face of the most basic tenets of our constitution, and the administration must move quickly to provide the leadership that will end this affront to our democracy.
Stephen Lamar, CEO, the American Apparel & Footwear Association
While this was an assault on democratic institutions and our democracy, hours later, that same democracy showed how resilient it is and how enduring it is.
Tim Boyle, chairman, president and CEO, Columbia Sportswear Co.
Obviously, the events that unfolded in Washington, D.C., yesterday were repugnant to those who cherish America’s commitment to the rule of law. President Trump should be held accountable. President-elect Biden’s first challenge is to bring together a divided country and show the world that the United State is capable of a smooth transition of power and that democracy does, in fact, work. We need him to be a voice of calm and reason that transcends the chaos. After that, I’d like to see President-elect Biden lead a comprehensive effort to get everyone in the country vaccinated against COVID-19. I think both of those can be achieved with his steady leadership.