With one week left to go until Election Day, fashion players are making a final push to get out the vote in what may be one of the most pivotal elections in recent history.
Early voting began Saturday in some states, yielding lines that wrapped around blocks in some neighborhoods and foreshadowing what experts say will be historic turnout on Nov. 3 — according to the U.S. Elections Project, more than 61 million people have already voted. Michael McDonald, a professor at the University of Florida who runs the Elections Project, has predicted as many as 150 million people will cast a ballot, potentially bringing the turnout among eligible voters to 65 percent (for comparison, turnout in the 2016 election was 60.1 percent, and in 2012 it was 58.6 percent).
This election season inspired a revived conversation about the value of voting and a cultural shift in communicating that message led, in part, by a swell of vote fashion. From Ts to masks to Christian Siriano’s redefinition of a “statement dress” for spring 2021, emblazoned with the word “vote” — fashion has been doing its part to spread the message that beyond a civic duty, voting in this election could impact what’s in store for the industry and the fundamental rights of the people within it.
The verdict is out on whether vote merchandise is actually driving votes, but with celebrities’ and influencers’ steady social posts featuring the latest sock or sneaker or slip-on loafer, vote fashion is, at the very least, inviting a conversation.
Here, WWD asked the purveyors of the recent months’ most popular merchandise to weigh in on what this election means for fashion.
Jim Kuerschner, president, Kule
Why is it important to you to vote? Our vote is our voice, and it’s important that we use that voice to elect leaders who reflect our values and fight for the change we want to see.
Why is voting in this election particularly important for the fashion industry? The fashion industry is made up of women, immigrants, LGBTQ-plus people, people of color, and other groups whose fundamental rights are on the line this election. Voting is always important, but now more than ever we need to vote to defend the rights of all Americans and restore decency to the presidency.
Meena Harris, founder and chief executive officer, Phenomenal Woman
Why is it important to you to vote? Voting in every election is important to me, whether it’s for president or local school board. Our democracy works best for all of us when all of our voices are heard. And as a woman of color, I know that there are so many people who still don’t want me to vote, who are trying hard this election to suppress turnout from people like me. Voting is my voice, and my voice is my power. No one can take that from me. And voting is a protected right that many have fought, bled, even died for. In my mind, the least I can do is cast my ballot. This election in particular will quite literally be the most important not just in our life times, but also in the history of our country. We owe it to ourselves, our ancestors, and our children, to vote like our lives depend on it — because they do.
Why is voting in this election particularly important for the fashion industry? Fashion, as an industry, is filled with people — from women to people of color to immigrants to the LGBTQIA-plus community — who understand that for many of us, our very existence is political, regardless of how interested we might be in party politics as a subject matter. That’s why at Phenomenal, we actively promote civic engagement, being informed on the issues, and speaking up on the causes that matter. Voting, just like fashion, is a way to express yourself and to create a more beautiful, inclusive world.
Dream Learn Do More
Samantha Lim and Allison Parc, cofounders, Dream Learn Do More
Why is it important to you to vote?
Samantha Lim: One of the greatest lessons of this year has been understanding the power of the collective whole. We’ve seen how much change can happen when individual voices come together, and the power of the peaceful protest is more relevant than ever. Voting is the most important exercise in coming together and creating actionable change.
Allison Parc: We are living in a time of real need for change. Voting is our right, our responsibility, and the single most important action we can take individually to affect the greater whole. It’s not enough to wish for change; voting assists us in being the change.
Why is voting in this election particularly important for the fashion industry?
S.L.: Fashion is and always has been an expression and reflection culture, it’s a tangible, tactile history of our lives. Whether you are putting literal timely messages on T-shirts like we do, or you’re creating abstract modern couture reflective of the moment, the fashion industry is inherently impacted by politics, and voting is an extension of that. Regardless of your politics, fashion industry members make their voice known with their clothing, therefore it is our responsibility to do the same with our voices and our vote.
A.P.: What she said. :)
Daria Burke, chief marketing officer, JustFab
Why is it important to you to vote? Our right to vote is the singular concept that gives Americans equal power to create a future we believe in. Every person deserves to be heard, and it is our collective responsibility to show up as citizens and contribute to a better future.
Why is voting in this election particularly important for the fashion industry? Fashion plays such an important role in our lives. Yes, it makes a statement about how we present ourselves to the world, but so much of where we are as a culture is manifest in what we choose to wear and often what inspires designers to dream up what may come next. The fashion industry is known for setting trends, so why not rally our collective voices and impact to lead the country to vote? Our industry is so deeply impacted by all of the social issues we’re all facing: racial injustice, operational changes to the USPS, immigration, and climate change (to name a few). We should absolutely be taking a stance to drive positive change not just for our industry, but for the global community at large.
Jennifer Fisher, founder and creative director, Jennifer Fisher
Why is it important to you to vote? Voting is our civic responsibility and it’s the way that every single one of us can participate in upholding democracy and make our voices heard. Also, as a woman, it’s particularly important recognizing the sacrifice that was made to get this right, and how hard we continue to fight to achieve equal treatment.
Why is voting in this election particularly important for the fashion industry? I think voting is the way that all industries can speak up for their shared values. This isn’t just the case for the fashion industry, but across all sectors for the country as a whole. Right now, voting is just as important for the survival of the fashion industry as it is for the rest of the world.
Aéropostale & Lucky Brand
Amie Goeller, senior vice president, design, Aéropostale and Lucky Brand
Why is it important to you to vote? In a democratic society voting is a civic duty and essential to make government represent its people’s true needs.
Why is voting in this election particularly important for the fashion industry? As a business, you want open borders and markets that allow for collaboration and the free movement of goods as much as possible. This has become more challenging with the policy over the last few years.
I Am a Voter
Sunny Jenkins, founding member, I Am a Voter
Why is it important to you to vote? Our democracy was carefully crafted to be supported by participation and its ideal function is contingent upon it. It was only 100 years ago that white women were given the right to vote and almost 50 years after that, it was extended to Black Americans. These were hard-won battles. We stand on the shoulders of the people who fought for us, so while it is our right, I think it is also our most fundamental civic obligation.
Why is voting in this election particularly important for the fashion industry? There is a lot on the ballot in 2020 that will deeply impact us all, individually and as a collective. Like many industries, fashion has been hard hit by the global pandemic. Partly in response and with great and historical reason, it has also been forced to reckon with inequities. We are navigating complications with trade agreements and international relations that will shape the industry going forward. We have huge female and LGBTQ-plus populations, whose rights are being threatened — the impact of which will remain to be seen. I don’t think there is anything more important than this very moment.
Boy Meets Girl USA
Stacy Igel, founder and chief creative officer, Boy Meets Girl
Why is it important to you to vote? We live in America. It is our civic duty to VOTE. There are people who do not have this right. It is our responsibility to vote! It is the opportunity for our voices to be heard.
Why is voting in this election particularly important for the fashion industry? I am so proud that the fashion industry is using their voices to connect to their audiences to encourage people to vote. I think collectively we all know that we want to live in a country that continues to grow and evolve by granting civil rights. For me, some of the youth activists I worked with in 2018 and recently in our 2020 campaign can now vote for the first time. In 2024 we will see the largest number of 18-year-olds eligible to vote in a century. There is power in numbers. And each brand can help make this world a better place.
Bianca Gates, ceo and cofounder, Birdies
Why is it important to you to vote? It was only 100 years ago that women were federally granted the right to vote, and it wasn’t until decades later — in 1965 — that all women gained this right. While progress has been made, there’s still so much to be done. At Birdies, we’re committed to empowering and uplifting the voices of all women, and now more than ever did we feel compelled to use this platform to continue raising awareness. As a first-generation American, the privilege of voting is not something I would take for granted.
Why is voting in this election particularly important for the fashion industry? I’m grateful that we have been able to use our platform — alongside so many inspiring brands — to educate and spread the important message of using your voice. Beyond this election, it’s my hope that we continue to see the fashion community encouraging their customers to use their voices for what matters most to them.