ARIN FROIDL | Editor
In light of the current sociopolitical environment of our country since the death of George Floyd in May, industries across the country are re-evaluating their business practices and business relations to guarantee there is equity and equality for all. The fashion industry in St. Louis is no different.
Designer Shan Keith voiced his thoughts on how both the fashion community and the St. Louis community can change for the better in an interview earlier this June.
Keith, a St. Louis native and former Project Runway contestant currently works as a fashion design teacher at North Technical High School. He has designed for celebrities like Zendaya and Rachel Roy, and now spends much of his time designing wedding gowns and prom dresses.
In the interview, Keith was asked about how the fashion industry in St. Louis can change to fight racism and promote inclusivity for all.
Keith calls for education as a solution to many of the current racist structures in America. He says education, even if it makes a person uncomfortable, is how we can lessen the effects of racism, and we must listen to what each other has to say.
"Taking the time to hear the voices and the words of what people of different ethnicities have to say or what they’re doing and how they express themselves," Keith explains, "I think that could be a huge staple in how we can move forward to minimize racism."
He voices concern over the current “trend” of Black Lives Matter and other equal rights campaigns. “I don’t think any of this should be a trend,” he says, “with those terms, what they mean is they have an intro, a rise, a peak, and a decline.”
By educating themselves, Keith hopes people will be able to sort through the current onslaught of companies aligning themselves with the Black Lives Matter movement. Through extended learning, consumers can work to understand who is truly fighting for equal rights for all and who is capitalizing on the movement’s momentum.
“You have to do your homework,” he says. “Watch how people have moved in the past…if there’s a company who you know that wasn’t really working with African Americans or minorities [or] people of different races …you have to call them out on that.”
For non-African American people, Keith says that this is the time to ask the questions. He says, “if you’re uncomfortable and don’t really know something, this is the time to ask.” He adds that this is the time for African Americans to call on their Caucasian and non-African American friends to stand alongside them and fight with them.
He says this may be a time for consumers to focus on supporting minority designers or small African American business owners to say, “Hey, I’m banding [together] with you in this moment.”
"You reap what you sew," says Keith, adding a designer’s twist to the age-old saying.
See the full interview on our Facebook page here.
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