It seems fashion is still grappling with the concept of cultural appropriation. Last week, Canadian luxury fashion brand Ports 1961 unveiled their men’s spring 2018 collection in Milan.
Among the sleek and graphic separates were two sweaters that have sparked an outcry from journalists and social media users alike. Specifically, they bore the slogans “Every Color Matters” and “Only Love Matters.”
Reaction to the sweaters and their manipulation of the Black Lives Matter message was swift and severe.
In his runway review on Vogue.com, Nick Remsen noted: “A T-shirt that read “Only Love Matters,” a broadening of the term ‘Black Lives Matter,’ felt, to this writer, troublesome (a movement that big and important and personal to so many should perhaps not help to serve a company’s bottom line). Ditto for a clenched fist on a jumper that opened the show; there are subtler and more sensitive ways to deliver a message of resistance and fairness and acceptance.”
“It was created in response to the crisis of racially-motivated police brutality — and with heartbreaking not-guilty verdicts like the one that came in the case of Philando Castille, it’s more important than ever,” wrote Alyssa Hardy. “People think Ports 1961 is not merely appropriating the movement, but they’re also attacking its message by broadening the term ‘Black Lives Matter’ to ‘Every Color Matters’ and ‘Only Love Matters.'”
Although the inspiration for the collection was “peace and love, but not in a hippy way,” according to creative director Milan Vukmirovic, many people thought that the appropriation of the Black Lives Matter slogan only served to delegitimize the movement and strip it of its grave modern significance.
Ports 1961 showing a "Every Colour Matters" shirt in Men's Fashion Week shows brand need to stop trying to profit from crucial movements‼️‼️
— Beth Fuller (@_bethfuller) June 22, 2017
2. Bye ports 1961 for putting this shirt on a black man 🤔 pic.twitter.com/bqUlLUPv8L
— lindsay peoples (@lrpeoples) June 21, 2017
Meanwhile, someone should have protested Ports 1961 because these "Every Color Matters" et "Only Love Matters" shirts are in poor taste pic.twitter.com/sWRimaYNe7
— GoodGalReRe (@_reneebu) June 20, 2017
— Antwaun Sargent (@Sirsargent) June 17, 2017
It will show you aren't really listening. And that's what Ports 1961 doesn't understand.
— theblackgirlphenom (@DreamMcClinton) June 20, 2017
Although Ports 1961 has not made a public statement, the brand is eager to defend the designs of their creative director.
“For the past several seasons, Milan Vukmirovic has been exploring the urgency of love and the importance of fraternity, unity and solidarity,” worldwide marketing director Giuseppe Panico said to Global News. “Our intention was to use the spotlight of a show to send out a message of tolerance, hope and love. We think that fashion reflects the world around us. In a time of challenge, fear and disillusion, it is the creative person’s role to try to deliver a message of peace and hope.”
Global News reached out to the Black Lives Matter chapter in Toronto but has yet to receive a response.