By Meg Sharma
Pride has become increasingly prevalent in the past few years, with this year’s celebrations seeing some of biggest gatherings not only in attendance, but in visibility, fashion and celebrity presence. With Britney Spears headlining Brighton Pride, Pride in London receiving five years of funding, and the ever increasing popularity of drag queens, Pride has seen a marked turn in popularity. This is in no way a bad thing; if people are supporting LGBTQ+ rights because they love RuPaul’s Drag Race, it’s still more people supporting the cause. However, Pride’s popularity has led to the release of clothing collections which are marketed directly towards the event, leaving us to wonder – is Pride just a quick profit-making scheme?
Having long been involved with Pride, looking for outfits for myself and friends to wear to the event has been a fun part of the process, which is why I was excited to see a Pride-themed collection on online retailer ‘Boohoo’. The campaign originally marketed its products as unisex, with slogans such as ‘End Gender’ ‘Love is Love’ ‘F**k Hate’ adorning t-shirts, jumpers, hats and even shorts. Most of the pictures feature a masculine and feminine person, in line with the ‘gender neutral’ element of the collection. I ordered an item, excited to wear it or gift it to a friend, however it arrived with a Mens label on it. I felt confused; I have no problem with wearing gendered clothing, but this was supposed to be genderless. For someone else, this could have caused gender dysphoria or a sense that this clothing wasn’t for them, despite it being clothing that celebrated ‘Pride’.
When I reached out to Boohoo, they said the collection was ‘his and hers’ with options for ‘male’ and ‘female’ body types. The website gives no such option. With these simple words, the collection defied the importance of Pride, excluding those who do not identify with the ‘his’ or ‘her’ label. Boohoo’s response shows that they hadn’t given the collection full thought, viewing Pride as a trend to capitalise on. Whilst the collection originally donated 10% of each purchase to charities ‘The Rainbow Fund’ and the ‘Terrence Higgins Fund’, there is no evidence of this on their website, meaning they may have stopped donations. There is no way to prove whether Boohoo released the collection with money on their minds, but with the CEO of BoohooMan.com commenting that the clothing is ‘for everyone’, they have definitely missed the mark.
It’s also no coincidence that ‘Rainbow Brights’ became a popular trend in June, with many clothing companies producing rainbow-striped garments, possibly as a subtle way of putting the gay flag on clothing. If you search for Pride clothing, many retailers such as Topshop and New Look display items of this nature – some directly mentioning love or pride, others choosing what I would call the cowardly approach. It’s not necessary for companies to mention Pride, but it becomes easy to assume that they are using the gay flag because they know people will buy it to wear at Pride. Some people may want these subtler garments, but should fast fashion retailers profit from this?
In some cases, it’s not up for speculation. PinkNews recently pointed out that some companies were manufacturing Pride Collections in countries where being homosexual is still a crime, meaning that workers were being forced to create clothing they could not wear without being criminalised. Two companies to be found doing so, H&M and Levi’s, made donations, but a 10% donation doesn’t fix the problem or wipe their slate clean, and they still would have made a considerable profit.
Releasing collections or clothing for Pride is the first step, but showing they actually care for the cause is more important. Many Pride collections don’t raise awareness for the necessity of Pride, so essentially profit simply off of the positive celebration of the event.