By Millie Richardson

One of the many things the internet has birthed is the term ‘cancel culture’. This is when people take to social media to call for the boycotting of a celebrity or brand because they have demonstrated supposed problematic behaviour.  

This week Louis Vuitton was hashtag cancelled. News broke that Donald Trump attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony for their new factory in Texas, opened as part of a Trump Administration initiative the luxury label signed onto where companies vow to help create more manufacturing jobs in the US.

President Trump at the opening of the new Louis Vuitton Rochambeau Ranch, a 100,000-square-foot workshop in Texas. Michael Burke, the company’s chief executive, is at right.
Trump at the newly launched Louis Vuitton warehouse in Texas. Credit: The New York Times

Trump received a personal tour of the warehouse from CEO of prestigious French fashion house LVMH, Bernard Arnault, and Louis Vuitton’s CEO Michael Burke. Suffice to say people were angry about the visit: “@LouisVuitton Shame on you standing next to the most corrupt President in American history to open your plant. I will never purchase anything with your name on it again. #boycottlouisvuitton,” tweeted a now ex-customer. “Just put my two Louis Vuitton bags into the charity bag for local women’s shelter. No more said,” posted another.

But when talking about cancel culture, something to note is that the cancelling doesn’t necessarily stick. For some, this is a positive, healthy thing because it gives people or businesses the opportunity to improve and regain respect, but for others, the flakiness of cancel culture is frustrating.

If we deem people behind a fashion brand problematic but continue to buy from said brand, does it mean we do not truly care about the issues at hand, so long as we get our flashy new bag or business deal? Shannon Coulter, a founder of Grab Your Wallet, an organisation that encourages people to stop supporting companies tied to Trump (LVMH being the latest addition) told Business of Fashion (BoF), “Creating jobs is not an excuse to ignore morally repugnant behaviour.

“Businesses are willing to look the other way in order to work with the Trump administration, but it’s a worrisome trend,” she added. However, a complete boycott is suggested by BoF as unrealistic given LVMH owns the likes of Dior and Givenchy.

It-brand Reformation disappointed a number of fans with its New Balance collab, launched two weeks ago. In 2016 the trainer giant’s head of public affairs, Matthew LeBretton, said, “The Obama administration turned a deaf ear to us, and, frankly, with president-elect Trump, we feel things are going to move in the right direction.” Meanwhile, one style has already sold out twice.

And though cancel culture is a relatively new phrase, this sort of discussion has been happening for a long-time. Just look at Abercrombie & Fitch’s ex-CEO Mike Jeffries’ famous quote about the brand being strictly for “good looking people”: “Good-looking people attract other good-looking people, and we want to market to cool, good-looking people… a lot of people don’t belong (in our clothes), and they can’t belong.” This was perhaps unsurprising to many considering it was notorious for its supermodel-esque staff, but to have it in writing was still disturbing. Still, Abercrombie and Hollister T-shirts and sweats made their way into endless wardrobes.

Brandy Melville is another long-term “problematic” clothing brand; their “one size fits all” mantra alienates anyone who is not a size small. For instance, to wear a pair of their jeans your waist must be no larger than 26-inches. “Can we cancel brandy melville for only carrying ‘one size’ that’s actually just XS,” someone tweeted. “Please, I’m L/XL and it’s so disheartening and uncomfortable for so many of these shops to carry one tiny size,” another replied. This is their tenth year of owning stores. The list could go on.

So, back to the question of do we do not truly care after all, perhaps it is unrealistic for these big brands to completely lose all support off the back of allegedly problematic behaving people, as expressed by BoF. But surely what matters in the end is that in all these scenarios where people have found injustices, they have spoken out – irrelevant of whether cancel culture is right or wrong. As long as we are taking steps in the right direction, difference can be made – almost similar to our journeys to becoming sustainable. Rome wasn’t built in a day, slow and steady wins the race etc, etc.

Featured image: A shot from Reformation’s site shared by Glamour.com