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Why Fashion Has Stayed Silent on Pride This Year

Why Fashion Has Stayed Silent on Pride This Year
Why Fashion Has Stayed Silent on Pride This Year

 


As Pride Month came to a close last summer, Nike made a bold show of support: No Pride, No Sport, the company said on Instagram. Beyond the month of June, we want to create a culture of belonging where athletes of all identities can move with pride every day of the year, we read in the caption.

This year, Nike is taking a different approach. For the first time since 1999, the sportswear giant is not releasing a Pride-themed collection or a targeted advertising campaign. He also hasn't recently posted anything LGBTQ-themed on his Instagram feed. Nike will instead focus on corporate donations and offer exclusive employee programs, the brand said in a statement.

Nike isn't the only brand that's gone dark on Pride. Retailers are stocking 7% fewer Pride-themed T-shirts compared to last year and have labeled 36% fewer beauty products in campaigns tied to the month-long celebration, according to Trendalytics.

This does not reflect the full extent of the decline; Target, for example, still sells themed items, but in fewer stores. He moved some of his rainbow-colored Pride displays from the entrance to the back of the store.

Even for brands participating in Pride this year, merchandise is hard to find, whether in the back of the store or having to dig through their website, said Rob Smith, founder and CEO of The Phluid Project, a gender-neutral clothing company. brand that also advises businesses on LGBTQ issues.

It's not just products that are in short supply: The Trevor Project, a nonprofit focused on suicide prevention among LGBTQ youth and one of the top recipients of corporate donations during Pride, said it has noticed a drop in these donations this year.

When brands discussed their approach this year, they typically talked about changing marketing priorities or talked about pro-LGBTQ projects and charities they support throughout the year. But marketing experts and advocates say the sudden decline in Pride advertising and collections is a direct result of the surprise backlash from last year's campaigns led by consumers and anti-LGBTQ activists. None have been fiercer than the Bud Light boycott following its partnership with trans influencer Dylan Mulvaney in June. The beer lost its number 1 spot in the US market and sales have still not fully recovered.

Subsequently, some brands view the risks of Pride activations as outweighing the rewards, a hangover effect from last year's boycotts, Mulvaney told Business of Beauty Global Forum attendees earlier this month.

Others see it as confirmation that the fashion industry's support for the LGBTQ community was never deeply rooted to begin with. The recent lack of public displays proves they were merely performative, Smith said.

What happened to all the rainbows

Since the 1990s, public displays of support around Pride Month have been mostly positive for brands. The campaigns were a way to attract LGBTQ customers and signal that a company was in tune with a consumer population that was increasingly looking to buy into its values.

In recent years, conservative groups have reversed course. Their efforts have focused on the issue of trans rights, on which American opinion is more divided, and on corporate support for progressive values ​​in general. Last year's boycott of Bud Light and viral TikTok videos lambasting Target and other retailers came as state lawmakers introduced bills targeting LGBTQ rights and curbing companies' DEI initiatives.

When [anti-LGBTQ bills] If the rhetoric is presented, it can impact everyday conversations and perceptions of LGBTQ+ identities, said Kevin Wong, senior vice president of marketing, communications and content at The Trevor Project.

Nike's low-key take on Pride this year seemingly marks a shift for a brand known for its values-driven marketing, most notably with its campaign featuring former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who kneels during the national anthem to protest racial injustice. . As recently as April 2023, the brand announced it would remove negative comments related to Mulvaney's promotion of leggings and a Nike sports bra, warning customers to be kind, be inclusive and encourage each other.

Standing ground

Many brands continue to openly support the LGBTQ community.

The Ugg shoemaker has teamed up with the actor and poet Alok Vaid-Menon on a capsule of brightly colored platform boots and fuzzy dresses. LOral-owned Aesop is bringing back its queer library initiative in collaboration with the American Civil Liberties Union. The brand will travel to New York, Los Angeles and Toronto to promote and distribute free editions of books written by LGBTQ authors.

Some brands are even stepping up their Pride activations.

In the past, plus-size swimwear brand Kitty and Vibe has hosted meet-ups at Pride parades to hand out Pride pins and souvenirs. This year, in response to growing anti-LGBTQ sentiment, the brand decided to come out in a bigger way.

Kitty and Vibe named LGBTQ musician Hayley Kiyoko as a brand ambassador earlier this month, tapping the singer to co-design a swimwear capsule collection. Ten percent of sales will be donated to the Trevor Project.

The brand's message is about being kind to yourself, your body and others, said Cameron Armstrong, founder and CEO of Kitty and Vibes.

For Armstrong, doing good by actively supporting the LGBTQ community outweighed a potential backlash.

AppleDoll Cosmetics, a Gen-Z makeup brand, for example, instead chooses to celebrate queer people throughout the year, said Lauren Drescher, the brand's vice president of social media and loyalty marketing. The label has instead decided to highlight its team, made up of members of the LGBTQ community, throughout the year.

It's still Pride Month for us, Drescher said. We don't need rainbow installations because the brand was founded with gender and sexuality inclusion in mind. It's part of who we are.

It's a strategy that will likely become more common for brands looking to connect with LGBTQ consumers. Smith says brands that will successfully woo them run marketing initiatives throughout the year, even for less high-profile events, like Trans Day of Visibility, which takes place in March.

This year, Pride is a year of reflection and reinvention, Smith said. Brands need to recalibrate and figure out how to present themselves more authentically to the queer community.

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