LONDON — Fashion figures in Britain are speaking out against antisemitism, and have written an open letter to members of the industry condemning online bullying and acts of violence that have erupted in the wake of the Israel-Hamas war.
Designer Deborah Lyons, who penned the letter on behalf of a wider group of industry figures, said the aim is to raise awareness and ask fashion companies to hold employees to account if they are abusive or bullying to people because of their culture or religion.
In an interview, Lyons said that in the professional space, people should speak for peace, or they should be quiet. She said people should not be bullied or harassed in the workplace, and that includes the online space. “We need to separate politics from humanity” and professionalism, she said.
The letter, which began circulating on Thursday and has more than 90 signatures so far, describes fashion as “a powerful platform for self-expression, inclusivity, and the celebration of diverse cultures. It has been heart-breaking for us to witness so many instances where our industry has continued to enable acts of discrimination and hatred.”
The letter goes on to say that recent media reports “and our own personal experiences have shed light on the presence of antisemitic behavior and stereotypes being used on and offline by members of the fashion industry. This perpetuates harmful narratives and contributes to the marginalization of Jewish individuals and communities.”
The letter suggests that fashion companies and organizations should implement “regular mandatory diversity and sensitivity training for all employees, from designers to executives, ensuring a deeper understanding of different cultures and religions, including Judaism.”
Lyons writes that “fashion companies should publicly denounce any acts of antisemitism, and take swift and decisive action against individuals or brands that perpetuate” such behavior.
“We urge you to address this issue by severing ties with individuals who have a track record in engaging in discriminatory practices that perpetuate harmful stereotypes, and that you join our demand for a fashion industry that promotes unity, understanding, and equality for all.”
Signatories so far include Ulric Jerome, the former chief executive officer of Matches and a fashion and beauty investor; Pierre Mallevays, founder and managing partner of the M&A advisory firm Savigny Partners; Caroline Burstein Hammond, owner of Browns Bride; Luke Hersheson, CEO of Hershesons brand and salon; Elana Nathan, the investor and former co-owner and CEO of Peter Som, and Sophie Mechaly, founder of Paul & Joe.
Designers and entrepreneurs on the list include Lyons, Olivia Rubin, Jane Lewis, Emily Cohen and Sabrina Naggar of Sunuva Swimwear. Other signatories include PR figures such as Mandi Lennard, Lois Clark, and Lydia Steele as well as buyers, managers and merchandisers from brands and retailers such as Selfridges, Prada Group, Net-a-porter, Browns, Theory and Matches.
As reported earlier this week, Net-a-porter suspended all merchandise from the Tel Aviv-based label Dodo Bar Or in response to the designer’s posting a video on her social media account that seemed to equate the Muslim call to prayer with terrorism.
Net-a-porter said it made the decision to suspend the label’s clothing because “discrimination, hate, and violence have no place on our platforms.”
The retailer said in a statement to WWD that its policy “applies consistently to all brands we stock in all markets. After content appeared that was offensive and inflammatory, the brand in question has been suspended from our sites.”
The video has been pulled down, and the designer has not returned a request for comment. The collection is available once again on Net-a-porter.
Lyons’ open letter to the industry began circulating hours after vandals were reported to have daubed “Gaza” in red paint on the front of the Wiener Holocaust Library in London. The library describes itself as “one of the world’s leading and most extensive archives on the Holocaust, the Nazi era and genocide.”
Last month, London’s Metropolitan Police published figures on hate crimes in London. The force said that between Sept. 29 and Oct. 12, there was an eight-fold increase in “antisemitic incidents” year-on-year in the British capital. The Met also said there was a rise in Islamophobia, with incidents nearly doubling over the past year.