by MIKE CHAIKEN
Connecticut fashion designer Chinnyere McPherson was so upset when she saw the video of George Floyd die at the hands of Minneapolis police officers, she had to turn it off before it was finished.
“I only got three minutes into the video before I stopped watching,” said McPherson, who is Black. “A few days later, in the comfort of my home, I watched the full video repeatedly.”
“I went through several emotions that day, anger, fear, sadness etc.,” said McPherson, “I cried and slept all day.”
“This is a reality for our people, something like this could easily happen to my brothers, friends or even to me,” she said.
As people of all races take to the streets to raise awareness to “Black Lives Matter,” the fashion industry has used its voice to raise awareness to the cause as well.
“The fashion world has always been a part of the conversation concerning Black lives, some more than others,” said McPherson, who creates the fashion brand FASCHINN.. “Black fashion designers and designers of color have been incorporating our culture and emotions into their art for a long time now.”
“I think the world is finally catching up listening to Black voices because of the tense climate,” said McPherson.
McPherson already was using her voice as a designer to fight the issues that have been brought to a head following the death of Floyd.
“I’ve always been diligent in teaching myself about Black history, especially because we were only taught the bare minimum in school.”
“It’s important to me that I continue to educate myself about our past so we have a better plan to move forward,” said McPherson.
With the increased awareness of racial issues brought on by Floyd’s death, McPherson said, “I plan on incorporating Black history within my brand a lot more, whether it be on my blog or on a t-shirt.”
“Every month, I will honor a different Black woman within the brand starting in July, starting with Assata Shakur (the late Black activist),” sad McPherson, who will be donating the proceeds to various causes.
Additionally, said McPherson, “I will continue supporting other black creatives and businesses by doing more collaborations.”
“Circulating the Black dollar within the community is extremely important. This is something that other cultures have mastered but has been stripped away from us,” said McPherson.
Although “Buying Black” is trending on social media, McPherson said the move isn’t just a trend to be followed. Also the Black community is not a newcomer to commerce, although systemic racism has beaten it back through American history.
“In 1921, Black Wall Street, one of the most affluent African American communities was violently burned down,” said McPherson. “This racially motivated act, killed hundreds of black people and injured even more.”
The Black Lives Matter cause and ending systemic racism needs more than social media posts, said McPherson. “Making a post is a statement in itself but this will not be sufficient for the Black community.”
“Many are questioning the sincerity of certain companies (who are showing support for Black Lives Matte. “Are these companies being genuine or trying to protect their own interest?”
“The moment companies start supporting diversity and inclusion within the structure of their businesses, then we will start to see the needle move,” said McPherson.
As McPherson sees it, the fashion industry has not done enough to promote diversity or fight systemic racism.
McPherson is trying to do her part to help steer the industry.
“As a Black designer one of my biggest contributions to the fashion industry is to continue to provide representation,” said McPherson. “It’s important that we utilize black models, makeup artists and photographers etc.”
“I started collecting magazines about 10 years ago because it was almost impossible for me to find images of black people for my mood boards,” said McPherson. “I had to collect eight to 10 magazines just to find enough Black faces.”
McPherson said her decision to use Blacks in promoting her brand may have had some push back outside of the community.
“One time a white woman told me, ‘Your clothing is beautiful but I would love to see some more diversity on your website.'”
“I don’t discriminate when it comes to marketing but I do prioritize black models because I see the lack of representation,” said McPherson. “It’s my job as a black designer to represent my people.”
As for those who ask if the steps forward will slow down as George Floyd’s death is replaced by other headlines, McPherson said, “The question isn’t, will the movement fade? The question is how can we make this movement an everyday reality for Black people?”