Maxwell Osbourne, one half of the duo behind Public School and DKNY, has broken his silence on Black Lives Matter. In an open letter published by W magazine on Thursday, the designer encouraged his peers to follow suit, recalling how the murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile inspired him to partake in his first protest in Manhattan last week.
“I could have sat at my desk and just focused on the work piling up,” he begins. “I could have just posted a picture on Instagram. But something compelled me to go into the streets last week and join the movement.”
Up until this point, the fashion industry has, for the most part, kept mum on Black Lives Matter.
It would seem as if designers, editors, stylists and other creatives, ever obsessed with maintaining a spotless public image, fear the potential consequences of social activism, saying nothing to play it safe, lest they risk alienating a customer or social media fan. It’s a disquieting stance from an industry that for decades has appropriated and commodified black culture (see: almost anything that falls into the category of “streetwear,” lip kits, the hairstyle ludicrously dubbed “boxer” braids).
But Osbourne’s essay is a move in the right direction, and we should learn to expect opinions from people with a platform, who wield the type of influence that can motivate change.
Osbourne put it simply, and best: “Raise awareness — it’s not as empty a gesture as it may seem — and others will follow your lead.”