public school's maxwell osborne writes open letter to the fashion industry about black lives matter

'Fashion is always at its best when it looks outside of itself for inspiration and holds up a mirror to society,' the Public School and DKNY designer reminds us.

by Hannah Ongley
15 July 2016, 5:29pm

At New York Fashion Week: Men's on Tuesday, Black Lives Matter activists staged a powerful silent protest challenging fashion's silence on a movement that has become increasingly important following the violent and tragic events of the last two weeks. However not everyone in the industry has been afraid to  speak up. Maxwell Osborne — one half of the design duo behind Public School and DKNY — has published an emotional open letter on W magazine calling upon his peers to fight the good fight and join the Black Lives Matter crusade. 

"As a designer, [the Black Lives Matter activists have] made me question what my role is in all of this, what can I do? I decided that I could no longer just sit on the sidelines," he writes, detailing how he was spurred to add his own voice to the movement by joining a recent New York City protest. "Last Thursday afternoon, I left my office in the Garment District, called a group of friends — black, white, Asian, mixed — and we all headed down to Union Square together to join hundreds of others in a peaceful protest of the fatal shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile," he recalls. "At that moment in my office there was nothing anyone could have done to stop me. I felt I needed to be out there with Black Lives Matter, show face and feel it."

Osborne says that as one of the few black men working in fashion, race is always on his mind. He is also only too aware of the horrifying injustices faced by black men in America, including that they're far more likely to go to prison and to face longer sentences. The designer believes that people working in the fashion world must not forget that they can also make a meaningful impact on the real one. "Fashion exists in a world of make believe," he says. "Our job is to offer an escape from everyday life and a fantasy of glamour and beautiful clothes. It's easy to forget the real world with its very real problems. But it doesn't have to be that way. Fashion is always at its best when it looks outside of itself for inspiration and holds up a mirror to society."

"Stand with Black Lives Matter," Osborne urges, encouraging his peers to educate themselves and become active participants in the push for racial justice. "Encourage diversity on your runways and campaigns. Empower your social media fans to raise their voices. Use your designs for the public good. Attend a protest and see change in action. Raise awareness — it's not as empty a gesture as it may seem — and others will follow your lead."


Text Hannah Ongley
Image via Instagram 

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