From my vantage point in Washington, D.C, I’ve seen Kate Spade and Michael Kors boutiques smashed, and our city’s poshest shopping area shamelessly ravaged. Across the country, Dior handbags and Moncler ski gear have been strewn on the streets like “social justice” roadkill. “Eat the rich,” was reportedly graffitied on Rodeo Drive as if this were the French Revolution. “No Justice, No Peace,” blared from Tiffany & Co.’s signature blue windows.
High-end retail is, of course, a likely target. For the petty looter, it’s easy prey and easy cash. But for the anarchist and true social justice believer, luxury fashion represents so much more. It’s the ultimate symbol of income inequality, of capitalism in its rawest form.
The woman who carries an Hermès Kelly quite literally wears her socioeconomic status on her sleeve. Those of us who support capitalism and achievement say, “More power to her.” In our country, almost everyone at least has the ability to access a quality education and find a good job. People born into poverty can build careers that help them afford a luxurious wardrobe—and that’s something to be celebrated.
This is precisely why fashion designers and their clever marketers often talk about their designs in terms of lifestyle. Where is the Ralph Lauren customer going? Where does she live? Fashion is all about an aspirational way of living and thinking. Its very oxygen is capitalism. Despite public declarations of allyship with the far Left, division of classes is its mother’s milk. Why would you want that pair of stilettos if everyone else can afford them too?
That’s why I’m always perplexed by the fashion industry’s invariable lean to the left and, in recent days, its lean towards anarchy. Similar to the days after 9/11, Anna Wintour and her allies very rightly summoned forces to help small businesses and retailers recuperate from the shopping shutdown caused by the pandemic. The most recent issue of Vogue celebrates A Common Thread, which has raised, as of last week, some $5 million for designers, retailers, and factories. Bravo to them.
But Ms. Wintour, whom I usually respect and admire when she isn’t wading into politics, issued an edict declaring that Joe Biden should pick a black woman as his running mate in response to George Floyd’s murder. She clutched her pearls over a “disgraceful president who seems capable only of vile statements of hate, of stoking our divisions, and turning Americans against one another,” without mentioning the vile attacks on her own industry, her own advertisers. I would have preferred Wintour use her influential pen to decry the carnage in shops, the broken glass left on floors, the many more lost days of business.
For his part, Marc Jacobs took to Instagram to express solidarity with vandals. “Never let them convince you that broken glass or property is violence.” It is, Mr. Jacobs. Just ask your employees on the front lines.
Louis Vuitton designer Virgil Abloh did the right thing by calling out the looters. “That product staring at you in your home/apartment is tainted and a reminder of a person I hope you aren’t,” he wrote. But in a stunning about-face after being bullied on social media, Abloh fell back into line. ”If looting eases pain and furthers the overall mission, it is within good standing with me.”
It shouldn’t be okay with anyone, especially fashion’s leaders who have made millions off the aspirational capitalist products they peddle and off the backs of their retail workers. You can take a stand for the rightfully aggrieved and for your shops and products and workers. Cowardice and hypocrisy are never in style.