Politics back in Fashion: How Fashion Brands are encouraging people to vote in US presidential election 2020?

Several major fashion brands have launched initiatives or released collection that aims to encourage people to exercise their voting rights.

With less than a month left before the 2020 presidential election in the United States, several major fashion brands and designers are working to encourage their customers to vote. In the wake of the US election campaign, ‘vote’ merchandise has emerged as the latest trend. Several fashion brands are bringing out products, from t-shirts to masks, customised to feature “vote” slogans, to do their bit in encouraging young people to exercise their voting rights. 

As November 3 inches closer, the fashion and beauty brands are playing a significant role in encouraging people to come out and vote, and make a difference.

Though fashion had traditionally stayed away from politics, fearful that demonstrating any leaning, conservative or liberal, would alienate swathes of potential customers. But, in the eight years of the Obama administration, the fashion industry came off really well in the US as Michelle Obama used her position to raise the profile of American designers, both by wearing a wide variety of brands and by hosting a fashion education workshop at the White House.

It’s important to note that during the campaign of presidential election 2020, Michelle Obama apart from her powerful speech, at the Democratic National Convention, drew everybody’s attention towards her “VOTE necklace.” The stunning, custom-made accessory instantly made headlines for its message. Designed by Chari Cuthbert, it triggered frenzied searches with keywords like “Michelle Obama necklace” and “vote necklace”.

Why fashion brands are asking you to vote?

“For democracy to work, people have to vote. The greatest threat to democracy is apathy.”

According to Pew Research Centre, “Only 56 percent of the voting-age population cast their ballot in the 2016 US presidential election, which is low compared to the most nation.” But with a vocal and growing cohort of young fashion consumers, it is expected by the companies and brands to take ethical stands. The brands are not only encouraging their consumers to vote but are also providing paid holidays on Election Day to their employees so that they can go and vote.

Patagonia like in 2016 and 2018 will once again close its doors on Election Day this November. The company for the first is also offering its employees up to four days off to train and serve as poll workers to help mitigate the nationwide shortage. Other than Patagonia, brands like Levi’s, Old Navy, Target, and Warby Parker are also proving their employees a paid holiday on the day of the election.

Above and beyond raising voter turnout, the brands inspiring employees and consumers to represent their values through the act of voting demonstrates that they have the principles for which they stand. This in the future will help brands to drift the “belief-driven” customer base towards them.

Companies and brands promoting vote merchandise

Many organisations have teamed up for their initiatives such as Rock the Vote, I Am a Voter, and When We All Vote. While many fashion brands have designed limited-edition collections or pieces inspired by the election to encourage the young population to vote this election.

Stakes are higher than ever this election in November. Low voter turnout, particularly among young voters, coupled with a predicted shortage of election poll workers due to the Covid-19 crisis have prompted many companies and brands to promote people cast their votes in this presidential election.

Levi’s, the much-loved denim brand, recently launched a VOTE PSA (public service announcement) with Hailey Baldwin, apart from other A-listers and activists. Additionally, Levi’s brand has teamed up with Rock the Vote to provide voting-centric content to users, leveraging its Instagram platform to feature celebrities, activists, and non-profit leaders. They have launched tees and hoodies with the word ‘vote’ and other customisable options featuring phrases like “Don’t Just – About it, Vote About It.”

Banana Republic released face masks that read “Vote for a Better Republic” as part of their voter registration initiative. The brand is teaming with Rock the Vote to provide voter educational tools to prepare for the election. Apart from Banana Republic, accessories brand, Baublebar is working with I Am a Voter for the voting initiative and released a retro-inspired flower pendant necklace that reads “Watch Out I Vote.” 

Not just jewellery and clothes, even footwear brands like Naturalizer are entering into collaborations for making “vote” merchandise. The brand teamed with Rebecca Lee Funk, founder of the activist network The Outrage, to launch a limited-edition boot featuring the word “vote”.

Patagonia has most recently gathered the most attention by using provocative tags on its Road to Regenerative Stand Up shorts that read, “Vote the A-Holes Out.” The brand is known for its political activism in past and doesn’t hesitate to leverage its brand to call for change around environmental issues.

Other than clothing and accessories brands, dating site OkCupid released a new Voter 2020 badge for users to include on their profiles. The company also publicised new research on the voting preferences of its users, including the statistic that registered voters are 85 percent more likely to get a match on the site.

Playing off the upvote/downvote system, Reddit shared that, although its content received an average of 165 million votes each day, the 2016 Presidential election only saw 140.1 million votes. The company launched an initiative called “Up the Vote” featuring an “Ask Me Anything” series on voting rights, laws and processes, special activations on National Voter Registration Day, and Vote Early Day including a silly video promoting a banana for President.

Pernod Ricard’s Absolut Vodka brand launched a campaign “Vote First, Drink Second.” Apart from this, five hundred thousand Jones Soda limited edition cream soda bottles were rolled out in September as part of their Vote 2020 series. The bottles feature a series of voting-themed label designs as well as a QR code on the back that enables online voter registration with a driver’s license or state identification card.

There are almost around or even more than 40 brands who are urging people to get out and vote.

Author: Mahima Joshi

Mahima Joshi is a writer at The Wonk. She is a postgraduate in Journalism, who is just curious about everything that is happening around. She is an enthusiastic reader especially concerning gender dynamics in mythological stories.

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