This year, a group of brands is teaming up to make Black Friday about a whole lot more than going to the mall at the crack of dawn and trolling the Internet for ridiculous deals. Rather, female leaders in the fashion industry insist that post-holiday shopping can serve as a chance to take a stand in support of women’s health.
Led by New York-based company Apiece Apart, the #WomenTogether initiative is calling on companies helmed by women to donate 5 percent of their sales during the Thanksgiving shopping weekend (Nov. 25 to 28) to Planned Parenthood. As of Wednesday, Ace and Jig, Creatures of Comfort, Electric Feathers, Kathleen Whitaker, Jesse Kamm, Lauren Manoogian, Zero + Maria Cornejo, Maryam Nassir Zadeh, Rachel Comey, and Ulla Johnson have all agreed to join up and write checks to the women’s health organization.
“Planned Parenthood has become a political target when in fact Planned Parenthood saves lives, protects women’s reproductive health, and fights for women’s equality through her right to choose,” Apiece Apart co-founder Laura Cramer tells Yahoo Style of her commitment to the reproductive and sexual health care provider. “We are a part of an incredible community,” Cramer continues. “We aim to inspire, support, and connect. Now more than ever we must speak for what is right — especially for our community. We are mothers, daughters, sisters, friends — and we support Planned Parenthood and a woman’s right to choose. As business owners we are also uniquely aware of the balance a woman must strike with her career, her personal life, and her biology. It is unique to the female experience — it is a beautiful thing — but we must not take our rights and our liberties for granted.”
And Cramer is far from the only female entrepreneur in the fashion community who feels this way.
For Lauren Manoogian, it’s personal. “After quitting my job in order to have time to pursue my own line, I was bouncing around doing freelance work while trying to save every penny to invest in my business, and was left with no health insurance. I relied on Planned Parenthood for annual exams, contraception, and other health concerns,” Manoogian, an independent designer, tells Yahoo Style. “I think a lot of people focus so heavily on abortion services, and while I am pro-choice, they fail to recognize that Planned Parenthood is really a first line of defense in a woman’s overall health. The sliding-scale payment structure is so important, especially with the uncertain fate of universal health coverage.”
Manoogian adds, “I think that in fashion we often publicly project fantasy and inspiration, but now is a time to deal with reality. There are real-life things at stake that affect women’s lives and well-being. Behind the scenes, women who run their own businesses are so tough. We’re used to dealing with high stakes and seemingly insurmountable obstacles on a daily basis. I hope going forward we collectively can apply some of the those skills, creativity, and motivation outwardly to issues beyond just making beautiful things.”
Explains designer Ulla Johnson to Yahoo Style, “I have been a longtime supporter of Planned Parenthood and other pro-choice organizations, such as Emily’s List and NARAL [Pro-Choice America]. I also have had the privilege of having a close connection to a number of other women-owned companies, fashion and otherwise. I feel that as fellow business owners we have sought a connectedness that has historically been anathema to the idea of business generally and fashion specifically as cutthroat and competitive in the extreme. I think we have seen that sharing our experiences, thoughts, initiatives, and struggles has only served to bolster ourselves as leaders and also the integrity of our business.”
Which is why, Johnson says, “I think that in what to many of us feels like a singularly dark time, the desire to band together, find our collective political voice, and give freely of our time and resources can be seen as a silver lining. I know that charitable donations across the board to civil rights and advocacy groups are at record highs in the wake of the election, and that gives me great hope. I am proud and happy to participate in #WomenTogether and to continue to use our shared influence to fight for what we hold dear and true and preeminent in our lives.”
For designer Maria Cornejo of Zero + Maria Cornejo, showing support for Planned Parenthood is something that should extend well beyond the fashion community. She tells Yahoo Style, “It doesn’t matter if you are in fashion or not. As a mother, sister, friend and human, we must support each other and use our voices to support organizations that matter. Planned Parenthood provides a wide range of services for women’s health, which a lot of women don’t usually have access to because of their economic situation. I care more that people are able to have access to health care no matter their race, gender, or economic situation.”
That said, she notes that there “is power in community and speaking out, which is what we are doing within our fashion community — however, it’s necessary for everyone to speak out. … We need to speak out so the progress that’s been made to support women doesn’t take a hundred steps back. It’s about health care and making sure everyone has access to it as a basic human right. We are stronger together when we come together as women, and when we speak together, we are a stronger ally for causes we believe in.”
Cornejo adds that the Zero + Maria Cornejo flagship store in Nolita is located in front of Planned Parenthood New York’s health center. “We see the amount of shaming that goes on outside there, on a daily basis, which is really shocking,” she says.
Jewelry designer Kathleen Whitaker tells Yahoo Style that even before joining the #WomenTogether initiative, her brand had decided to donate 100 percent of proceeds on Black Friday to the Natural Resources Defense Council, and will run another similar campaign on the day after Christmas. She adds that when she learned of the #WomenTogether plan for Thanksgiving weekend sales, “we jumped at the chance to join.”
Whitaker notes that, “the small business owner earns hard-won rewards on so many levels. But that gain is mostly material. We have an imperative now to use whatever voice we have — however quiet or loud — to support people, lands, shared resources which are now threatened with no end in sight.”
Designer Jesse Kamm echoes her peers. “I know it is not ‘polite’ to talk about politics and money in mixed company; however, we have entered a pivotal moment in history when we must speak up, and speak loudly,” she says. “So many of our liberties are suddenly under attack. Our environment is at risk, our civil rights are at risk, women’s rights are at risk, our freedom of speech is at risk.”
Kamm is donating 20 percent of her Thanksgiving weekend sales to Planned Parenthood.
And so, Kamm says of her involvement in #WomenTogether, “at a time when my community is at a loss for words, I feel I must stand up and lead by example. We must work together in a positive way. We must unite. Donating proceeds to Planned Parenthood, the NRDC, the Trevor Project, and Standing Rock are just a few items on my long list of must-dos. The responsibility is not on me because I am a designer; the responsibility is on me because I am a human being. We all have a responsibility to do everything we can right now to stand up and fight for ourselves and our future generations. If we are not outraged, we are not paying attention.”
Or, as Cramer puts it, “I look forward to when my children look back on this political discussion as archaic.”