Why a Black Lives Matter Protest Organizer Says the Fashion Industry Should Do More
"I want to put that message out there and give them something to ponder on," says stylist Hannah Stoudemire.
Those who headed to several New York Fashion Week: Men's shows held at the Skylight Square Clarkson on Tuesday came across more than just the usual street-style photographers lingering around — they were addressed with a silent Black Lives Matter protest.
The demonstration was organized by Hannah Stoudemire, who donned a shirt that read, "Stop Killing Us." Fellow protestors wore shirts with equally powerful political messages, including "Black Lives Matter" and "Don't Shoot."
Stoudemire's idea to stage a peaceful protest started when 12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot by a cop in Cleveland in 2014, and after last week's the police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, the Cleveland native said she couldn't put her idea on hold anymore.
"I was planning to do it this September during the women's shows because they're bigger, but I could not let that pass," Stoudemire, a stylist at Lanvin's NY flagship, told Pret-a-Reporter over the phone. "It was very ironic because the nation is up in arms and we're in the middle of a real revolution right now. And fashion week is just around the corner so I couldn't wait and organized as fast as I could."
Here, we spoke with Stoudemire about the powerful message she sent to the industry today and how folks in fashion and entertainment alike can use their platform to speak up.
What time were you guys there from today?
We met at 10 o'clock, right outside of DVF, and then we marched on the sidewalk with our hands up down to Skylight Clarkson. We were there from 10:45/11 a.m. until 5 p.m. All day in the sun. But the CFDA staff was really kind, and the security and parking attendants and traffic controllers kept making people get out of the way. They didn't let anyone bother us and they didn't bother us. I knew they believed in what we stood for because I kept hearing one female traffic controller saying, "I don't care who's about to pull up in the car." She wouldn't let them pull up in front of us [laughs].
Do you believe that Black Lives Matter can or should be a style statement?
No, I don't think so. I think it should stand alone for what it is. And that's to keep it completely authentic, organic and pure. I don't want to exploit anything off of that. That's why when people were giving suggestions afterwards like, "If you do this again, we should really dress up and participate along with fashion week." And I was like, "I'm a stylist, I know how to dress." I work in the industry, but I chose to mute it. I don't want to celebrate fashion right now. They died — it's not about clothes right now. I don't want that follow-up question of "What are you wearing?" today. Because it doesn't matter. I'm not wearing anybody. I'm wearing Philando Castile's name. And today was his birthday. Like what better day to do it.
What do you think the fashion industry, as well as celebrities, can do more of?
Use their platform and be accountable. Use their platform and stand to be accountable. I think if they think that, we'd see change faster. [...] I think once the majority of the industry, people and corporations use their platform to speak up to list the minorities' message, then the patrons and everyone associated with them will see us as people and respect us.
Why do you think that the fashion industry has stayed mum about Black Lives Matter?
I honestly think it's because they're so obsessed with themselves. They're known for being vain and exclusive. I mean, I know, it was hard for me to get started. They're known for throwing away resumes and being competitive. They want to keep everyone out and remain in this bubble. But at some point, you have to burst that bubble and re-join American society because without us, you can't move that collection. Without us, you can't use that campaign. You're using our black models, you're using our black culture in what you do, you're walking to our black music. Are you exploiting it? 'Cause that's the only other explanation, but I don't want to believe that so I want them to stop being silent.
Have you seen any celebrities in which you've felt they've used their platforms to speak out about this?
Carmelo Anthony — not only did he truly use his platform, he challenged the rest of his peers in the athletic industry. And I love that LeBron James reposted it.
What are your plans after this?
As far as fashion week, this is it. I wasn't planning on coming out, but I did. I'm done for the rest of the week. As far as September, we will be there and it will be under the same hashtag #StopTalkingDoSomething. That's the movement that I'm sticking with. I'm not telling anyone when and where because I love the surprise element of popping up and taking them by surprise. They'll see us though. It will be peaceful. I want to put that message out there and give them something to ponder on.