Last week, brands of all stripes united to denounce racism. Now, we’ve entered the on-brand apology phase for many of those same companies. While corporations like Amazon, which are most certainly not walking the walk, never have a reason to grapple with their damaging imprint, a number of smaller fashion brands have faced a broader reckoning from ex-employees.
The women’s clothing company Reformation was among the highest profile brands to be accused of discrimination. One week ago, the company posted a brief list of organizations to support the fight for justice, including Black Lives Matter, Reclaim the Block, ACLU, and more. In the replies, former employee Elle Santiago suggested that Reformation and founder Yael Aflalo fostered a hostile work environment to non-white employees, and never offered a chance for Black employees to advance in the company.
“Working for Reformation deeply traumatized me. Being overlooked and undervalued as a woman of color who worked & managed their flagship store for 3 years was the hardest,” she Santiago wrote in a comment. “I cried many times knowing the color of my skin would get me nowhere in this company. Yael never looked at me. She would walk [past] me and never spoke to me. But would tell white associates that they were pretty.”
Alfalo penned a lengthy response, led off by a single frame that simply says “I’ve failed,” admitting her culpability in the company’s race problem, explaining her decision to scale back her leadership role in 2018, and pledging sizable donations to Black charities. It’s very long and mentions an independent investigation, but appeared to not be sufficient for some former workers in the comments.
Reformation was far from alone in the apology wave. The founder of stationary brand Ban.do, Dolls Kill, and marketing influencer Jenna Kutcher all followed the same playbook for allegations of racist behavior. It’s hilarious how quickly these tropes solidify: the stark, minimalist, and carefully punctuated graphic design. AN APOLOGY; WE FUCKED UP. The brusque, conversational admission of guilt that leads into an ambling, pages-long apology. I remember someone saying the apology should never be longer than the accusation, but as long as the font’s right, who’s really keeping score?