I think most people on the internet are aware of the happenings with Black Lives Matter over the past couple of weeks. It's apparently the biggest civil rights movement in history, which is amazing, but along with a lot of the good coming out of communities coming together to stand for Black Lives and Black people there's an awful lot of perforative allyship going on.

If you're not sure what performative allyship, it's essentially saying you're an ally, and saying some of the right words, without doing any of the work to make a difference. And many brands have fallen into this in the last week or so when they've been called on to say something in solidarity with Black people.

But a lot of them have really just showed empty words, and a lot of people, Black creatives and Black people working in all industries have come forward to talk directly about their experiences with companies who are upholding white supremacy within their own companies, yet are coming out "in solidarity" with Black people. Brands, you can't have both, you actually have to do the work! And this doesn't just apply to brands but to influencers and individuals as well but we're focusing specifically on brands in this post.

So today let's look at some of this perforative allyship, so you know how to spot it, what to do about it, and how not to fall into a trap of being a perforative ally yourself. I'm going to look at three different brands in detail and their approach to this, and then more broadly at some other brands' approaches too.

Upper Left: a picture of Munroe. Lower Left: L'Oréal's statement in 2017 dropping Munroe. Middle: L'oreal's response to the Black Lives Matter Movement. Right: Munroe's statement after talking to L'oreal.
Back on June 1st, L'Oréal posted a a picture on their instagram that said "speaking out is worth it" the irony of which will come in a minute, and then the next day posted a black square with #BlackoutTuesday. Just a few words, and some performative silence,  same as many brands

They got a lot of backlash for these two posts due to the fact that back in 2017 Munroe Bergdorf, a black trans model, was fired from a L'Oréal campaign and "left to the wolves" of the media after speaking out on her platform against white supremacy and racism. Since 2017 there had been no apology, no compensation, or even any acknowledgement of the pain caused to Munroe. Yet, now that it was in their best interest as a company to speak out against racism, suddenly it was "worth it".

This is very performative, a few words and nothing about their part in the system and how they're going to do better in the future, and no acknowledgement of what happened with Munroe in 2017. It wasn't good enough, and people were sure to tell them that. Countless individuals posted on L'Oréal's posts demanding an apology and compensation for Munroe as well as some saying they had been boycotting L'Oréal since 2017 because of this incident.

This story does have something of a happy ending though as a few days ago, on June 9th, Munroe posted on twitter to say that she had spoken to L'Oréal, that they were donating £25,000 to both Mermaids and Uk Black pride and that she would be working withe L'Oréal going forward on their diversion and inclusion advisory board to help them move forward and improve in future.

So I guess L'Oréal kind of shows you how not to do it, and then how to do it better, in a matter of weeks. Of course they have a lot of work ahead and it's sad that it took them 3 years to get there, but it's never too late for change, you just have to put that work in.

Top left: Madebynere's art work, Bottom left: In The Style's BLM charity t shirt instagram post, right: In the style's statement/apology
In The Style
I could write an entire post about In The Style's dealings over the last year, and I probably will at some point, but today we're just going to focus on their response to Black Lives Matter. There's many layers to this.

In the Style's first response to the murder of George Floyd and the BLM protests was to release a charity t shirt. This got a lot of backlash. Firstly because they as a white owned brand were trying to profit (albeit indirectly) off of this Black led movement, secondly because In The Style are not an ethical or sustainable brand and exploiting one group of marginalised people (garment workers) to "help" another doesn't sit right with a lot of people, thirdly the money would've been better directly donated, and finally the artwork was apparently stolen from another artist.

Then on Blackout Tuesday they posted a black square and turned all their comments off. They said it was to commemorate the day but it is was suspicious that this was also a time they were receiving a lot of backlash, they then deleted the T-shirt post.

A few days later they came out with a statement on their twitter account which tired to explain their wrong doings and offer an apology. They said they wanted to do better and that they removed the t-shirt post because the t shirt had sold out, they were donating the £10,000 raised from the t-shirt plus another £10,000 to the George Floyd Memorial Fund.

They then went back to posting as normal, but with a few black models thrown in the mix, and the only evidence of any of this happening on their instagram is the black square.

But these aren't the only problems, before this all happened you had to scroll back to January to find a black model on their instagram page. January! And when someone messaged their CEO on instagram to ask him whether they had any black members of staff, he replied that she was part of the problem (for sharing the pictures off his staff's public linked in photos) and their their black members of staff just "weren't on linked in". He has a habit of trying to make the people calling his company out on their actions into the "haters" and the ones in the wrong.

I will be interested to see if any real change comes with In The Style, the only thing I'm seeing is the occasional black model thrown into the mix on their instagram. Time will tell I suppose. Either way I'm keeping my money away from them and their unethical businesses, and I'm not part of the exclusive club of sustainable bloggers and influencers who are blocked by them on twitter.
Left: Reformation's initial BLM post on instagram. Middle: Elle Santiago's statement about her time working for Reformation. Top Right: An instagram post featuring senior figures in Reformation eating fried chicken with the caption "Black History Month. Bottom Right: Yael, founder of Reformation's apology.
The third brand I chose to look at in more detail is Reformation, and I chose them because they market themselves as a sustainable brand, and just because a brand is "sustainable" and "ethical" does not mean that it is exempt from being racist or upholding white supremacy. And reformation have definitely been a very racist brand.

This information about Refomation's practices came from Elle Santiago who spoke up on instagram about her experience working for the company for three years, until December 2016. I'll summarise the main points but you can read the whole statement here.

She worked as an assistant manager for the fashion brand and in her time working there was consistently overlooked for promotions, despite doing a lot of the work a store manager would do, and was instead used to train white women who were hired above her or brought into the company to work above her. Not only this but that when Yael, the founder of the company, first met her she looked her up and down in disgust and Elle would have to speak through other white women in the company to get Yael to listen to anything she said, she would not speak to her directly.

When black models were brought in they were told that Reformation "just wasn't ready for that yet" and that the brand refused to work with black and plus size models. Other black models have said reformation were known for this also.

Plus during Black History Month when she first worked their Yael and another white staff member took a picture of themselves eating fried chicken and captioned it "Black History month". 

When Elle came forward with all of this online she was messaged by Reformation to ask if she would have a phone call to chat about her experience (with no payment for her labour offered) but responded that she has talked about all of this during her exit interview in 2016, clearly it has been ignored since then.

Yael herself has come forward to apologise on Reformation's instagram, it's long, it very much centres herself, and it honestly seems like she's only coming out to apologise because she got caught out. She is donating $500,000 to Black charities though, so it's not completely empty.

Again, time will tell if things change at Reformation and it is not my place as a white person to accept or not accept this apology but I will be removing Reformation from any promotions on my blog and will not be shopping with them for at least the near future.

Just because a brand labels itself "sustainable" does not mean that it is exempt from being racist. There's also a lot of white owned sustainable brands that perpetuate the white saviour complex but I will save that for another post.

Other Brands
Lots and lots of brands have fallen into perforative allyship, and they're easy to spot.

For example there's countless brands who haven't paid, or previously weren't paying their supply chains during lockdown and putting already vulnerable garment workers are risk. Such as Gap, Anthropologie, Urban Outfitter, Walmart, Gap, and Topshop who all haven't paid. And then you have Asos, H&M, Nike, and others who only paid due to pressure. All put up vague statements of solidarity, but  you don't get to "stand" for one group of marginalised people whilst directly exploiting another.

Then there's brands that continually exploit black culture like Missguided, and that hire black fishing models like Pretty Little Thing and Fashion Nova. They haven't said how they're going to improve and change their brands for the better.

The fashion industry as we know it was built off the back of the slave trade and still relies on the exploitation of marginalised people, and often modern day slavery, to keep it running. If a brand is coming out in "solidarity" with Black Lives Matter but is not also trying to dismantle this system then I definitely question their motivations. Fast fashion is especially complicit in this as well as regularly exploiting black culture without paying black artists and creators.

Saying "I stand in solidarity" doesn't mean that the anti-racism fairy suddenly comes along and absolves you of all of the racism you and your company have been complicit in. You actually have to do the work. And if a brand has been and is doing the work then they will be able to show you.

Of course this doesn't just go for brands either, it applies to influencers and individuals, all non-black people (especially white people) have a responsibility to dismantle the system of white supremacy we currently live in.

So stand up for your black co-workers and peers who are dealing with racism on a daily basis, donate to charities who are doing the work, educate yourself on how you can do better, and shop black owned, indigenous owned, small and ethical businesses who are doing the work. And don't trust that just because a brand has said they're doing the work that they are, call them out, ask when exactly what they're doing.

And to answer the question in the title of this post? Well... what do you think?