Among the many brands who showed up for the #BlackOutTuesday trend meant to highlight the gravity of police brutality and anti-blackness in the United States, the popular fashion brand Revolve was among the last to participate, posting its black square on Wednesday, June 3.
But Revolve’s participation in the social media campaign raised eyebrows as the Instagram-centric clothing brand was previously subjected to criticism related to its lack of diversity in regards to black women. Its co-founder and CEO Michael Mente and Chief Brand Officer Raissa Gerona, a Filipina American, also received backlash.
The company and its executives came under fire in 2018 for neglecting black women in its fashion campaigns, catalyzing the widely spread hashtag #REVOLVESoWhite. Revolve then promised to commit to more diverse representation, but campaigns unveiled in the last two years left a lot to be desired in regards to that promise.
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“We’re sorry that you haven’t heard from us sooner. We’re sorry that you felt that we haven’t used our voice and reach to stand up against the racism and injustice and the horrible death of George Floyd amongst many others,” the brand said on Wednesday, June 3.
“But we’ve been listening to you,” the post continued. “We’ve been reflecting. We’ve been talking with black members of our team and community. And we stand next to you in the fight against racism, inequality and police brutality. From the depth of our being, we know and believe that Black Lives Matter.”
In addition to promising to cultivate campaigns more inclusive to black women, Revolve also announced that it would be launching the Revolve Foundation, pledging $1 million toward the causes that “fight against inequality.” (Revolve did not specify where the donations would go, and the company has yet to respond to inquiries from the Asian Journal.)
Mente — who co-founded the next-generation fashion retailer in 2003 — reposted the statement from the Revolve brand page to his personal account. However, Gerona wrote her own statement on her page, apologizing for not living up to her initial commitment of putting “women in a position to make choices for ourselves and unit us to have a platform, to have a voice, feel empowered and be entrepreneurs.”
She added, “Instead, I have been part of the narrative of exclusion. I’ve done a poor job to have more diversity, specifically Black women, within our brand. I have heard you, and promise that this changes now.”
While the many praised the brand and its founders for their statements, the sentiments weren’t as welcomed by black influencers and models, who commented their frustrations on Gerona’s, Mente’s and the brand’s Instagram posts.
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Responding to the black box post on the brand’s main page, the New York-based influencer Vic Styles wrote, “This black box literally means nothing to us black people. You have continuously shown us over the years that as a brand black people do not matter. From the lack of representation in your company to the lack of diversity in your campaigns and influencer marketing. You exploit black culture and music when it’s profitable for you, but you are no ally. This box is a PR ploy and we can all see right through it. So many black influencer[s] have specifically called your brand out for performative activism. Do better.”
The African-British model and influencer Natasha Ndlovu commented on Gerona’s statement on Instagram reminding the CBO that Revolve was criticized in 2018 for its lack of diversity in its campaigns.
“You guys promised to be more diverse, but here we are … AGAIN. How do we know we won’t be having this convo again in 2022?” Ndlovu wrote, remarking that “I attended your London event and saw with my own eyes how things operate. Your Revolve Awards? Have you seen how it looks like the same girls year in and year out winning? It’s like a sorority that sticks to itself.”
Ndlovu also criticized the lack of diversity within the brand’s influencer network, which include Asian American fashion blogger Aimee Song and Brazilian influencer Camila Coelho, asking if there are “any plans for a long term brand launch with a black blogger, if you do plan on even having black bloggers on your roster moving forward?”
In response to Revolve’s #BlackOutTuesday post, YouTuber India Batson reacted more favorably to but urged the brand to “please begin to use models of all color and shapes and sizes on your page” pointing out that “there are no models with type 4 hair on your page…or a woman with a different body type.
Originally kickstarted by the music industry, a social media campaign emerged called #BlackOutTuesday on Tuesday, June 2, when artists, studio executives, labels and other properties within the music space posted a plain black square as a “moment of silence” in honor of victims of police brutality.
Essentially, the music industry would go silent to commemorate the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Abery, Breeona Taylor and the many other unarmed black individuals who were killed: no Zoom meetings among music industry employees, no promotion of new work, and no new Instagram live duets between artists.
But as early as Monday evening, more folks hopped on the bandwagon from celebrities in other sectors of entertainment to everyday Instagram users to companies and brands.
Critics and prominent members of the Black American community lambasted the silence campaign as yet another example of virtue signaling — an empty, bare minimum effort to, ironically, be a part of a conversation.
The critiques were largely squared on the companies and brands who have not made any public statements prior to #BlackOutTuesday.