The Women’s March on Washington is only three days away, and the fashion industry is kicking into high gear to get behind the cause. Designers and brands across the country are expressing their plans to support the march in a range of ways: Marc Jacobs will raise awareness via social media on Saturday, while designers like Aurora James are closing their businesses that day so their staff can all attend. Rachel Comey will be heading to D.C. for the weekend, but last week was moved to send a letter to her fellow American designers via the Council of Fashion Designers of America, calling on her colleagues to support and champion the march. Here, WWD speaks with Comey about the letter and why it matters to her.
WWD: What spurred you to write the letter, for distribution to the CFDA?
Rachel Comey: I was trying to figure out, after the election, like a lot of people, what can we do, what can I do, to be active and engaged and I just thought that I could look within my own community, where I spend all my time — the fashion industry — and when I did, I realized that most of our employees are women, the majority of our customers are women and it’s almost like our duty and responsibility to champion the march. Also, as soon as the march started happening here in New York, I was in touch with some of the organizers for various reasons, just clothing-wise, really, and it made me want to try and rally people within our industry to get behind the march in some ways.
I wish I’d had more time, but the CFDA sent [the letter] out to all the members for me and I had some great responses from that. Some companies are chartering buses for their employees and other companies are having sales donated to whatever charitable cause they have allegiance to that reflects on women’s rights, equality or reproduction. And then some are doing social media, some are closing their stores so that their staff can go, so yeah, [the letter] was really just trying to rally within our industry and use our influence and responsibility to champion the march.
WWD: When you floated the idea by the CFDA, what was the response like?
R.C.: They were open to it — they have a statement that says they support their members who are going to the march and so they helped me by putting it in their newsletter, kind of a member-to-member letter.
I’d love to be able to influence even more people in our industry. And I think we are uniquely positioned, by the nature of our business, to champion the march.
WWD: And why is that?
R.C.: Because our staffs are filled with women and our customers are all women — obviously, not really, but it is the bigger portion of our industry, from beauty to fashion. Equal opportunity, equal pay, equal rights, reproductive rights, maternity leave, there are marches happening all over the country. It’s just something that I thought I could try to do.
It’s been a really short time frame, from when the march began organizing to now, and I’ve noticed that within my own company, the dialogue about the march has been really empowering for us as a team and also for our customers, and I think it’s important to recognize that.
WWD: What is your staff doing for the weekend?
R.C.: I’m subsidizing my staff to go to whatever march — I have some staff in L.A. so they’ll go to that march — so I’m subsidizing their travel to go there and then in our store, we’ve got volunteers that are mostly the men on our staff, who will work in our store that day, and we’re donating 50 percent of our sales Saturday to Planned Parenthood. So people have to go easy when they go shopping in there because there won’t be salespeople in there! But they’ll hold down the fort while the others are out marching.
WWD: What comes after the march? What are the next steps for action?
R.C.: Well, I have a show in two weeks, so I am right now flip-flopping between organizing the march and trying to get the fall show there. So it’s full steam ahead, night and day right now. That’s the big next hurdle, getting that fall show together. And I’m sure that whatever we’re doing and thinking and involved in is going to be reflected in that collection somehow. We’ll see — we’re getting there.