The Story Behind Tuesday's Black Lives Matter Protest at NYFW:M

"The CFDA should really be ashamed of themselves," said fashion blogger Hannah Stoudemire, who organized a demonstration outside Skylight Clarkson Square.
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The silent protest taking place outside the venue on Washington Street. Photo: Karina Hoshikawa/Fashionista

The silent protest taking place outside the venue on Washington Street. Photo: Karina Hoshikawa/Fashionista

The Black Lives Matter movement hit the second day of New York Fashion Week: Men's as a group of silent protesters assembled peacefully in front of Skylight Clarkson Square Tuesday morning, holding signs and wearing T-shirts that read "Black Lives Matter," "Don't Shoot" and "Stop Killing Us." Showgoers looked on, some tweeting or posting photos to Instagram while a few street style photographers snapped away.

With rare exceptions, the fashion industry has historically been pretty absent from the Black Lives Matter conversation, momentum for which has built significantly since Philando Castile and Alton Sterling were murdered by police last week, both incidents captured on camera. And it was that silence from fashion's biggest brands that inspired fashion blogger and stylist Hannah Stoudemire to organize a protest.

To hear why she chose New York Fashion Week: Men's as a platform, and why she's boycotting fashion week going forward, read our full Q&A, below.

Fashionista: Can you tell me a bit about how this was organized?

Hannah: I got the idea for it last year, or when Tamir Rice was killed in Cleveland, Ohio. I tabled it and wanted to wait until it was a bigger platform, so I was going to wait until this September, and I couldn’t because Alton Sterling was killed. I know it sounds bad to say that it happened at the "right moment," but it did work out to where men’s fashion week was coming up. And that whole week was very hard for us — I physically grieved them as if they were my own family. So I couldn’t wait, and I wrote my idea out. I work in the fashion industry, so I sent the email out to everyone I know — friends, family, supporters — and asked them to forward it to as many people as they knew.

Are these [fellow protestors] your friends?
Some are my personal friends, and then they emailed it to their friends and their friends. A lot of people we didn’t know. Some people joined off the street, some photographer came and left, and that was very touching. He was here shooting [NYFW:M] and came and stood there.

Are you going to continue this for the duration of NYFW: Men’s?

No. I actually decided to totally boycott on my own and not attend fashion week at all. This is the only day we’re demonstrating our peaceful protest. We’re not chanting, we’re not saying anything, because I think silence speaks volumes, and they can’t say we’re being rude, violent or militant or anything like that. We just have our hands up, and we’re making a statement with our presence. The rest of fashion week, I’ll just let it continue on with any shows.

You mentioned that the industry did acknowledge the shootings in Paris and Orlando. In addition to what you’ve spoken about and posted on social media, what else do you want to say the fashion industry by being here today?

I just want the fashion industry and people in general — the majority of the people represented here today — to acknowledge us. I say this time and time again: they acknowledge black culture, they use it to their advantage, use it on the runways. I’ve been wearing french braids or cornrows since I was three years old, and the fact that now all of a sudden it’s popular... Kim Kardashian [and her family] taking it and making it their own, and calling them ‘boxer braids.’ No, those are cornrows, and we’ve always worn those, and they’ve always been trendy. So, if you don’t want to acknowledge us, don’t take our stuff. Where would you be? It would be boring, it would be bland. Don’t walk to our music, don’t acknowledge us at all. But you take our culture when it’s convenient to you, and then don’t acknowledge when we’re dying in the street. And this is happening in America. The CFDA should really be ashamed of themselves because black people have come through that program, have won, and I’m calling them out. Aurora James, she’s black. Maxwell Osborne, you’re black. And I saw Maxwell walk past, and he didn’t even acknowledge it. It was almost as if he didn’t want to be associated with it, and that’s ridiculous.

A closeup of the protesters. Photo: Karina Hoshikawa/Fashionista

A closeup of the protesters. Photo: Karina Hoshikawa/Fashionista

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.