One of the lessons to come out of Covid-19 is a timely reminder that small can be mighty. While many of luxury fashion’s giants have responded strongly to the pandemic with donations, logistical support and PPE production, independent style brands have made sacrifices to help “flatten the curve” too. From shirtmaker Turnbull & Asser’s pivot to producing thousands of medical gowns each week in its British factories, to Hong Kong-based tailor The Anthology, which donated all profits from its new knitted T-shirts To Covid-19 relief, indie brands have stepped up.
Now, following three months of lockdown, the Black Lives Matter movement has brought the lack of racial equality within the fashion industry into sharp relief—challenging the industry to reckon with its systemic issues. Many brands have proclaimed their support for the movement, but few have offered a response that is as thorough or as heartfelt as NYC-based online menswear retailer, No Man Walks Alone.
Founded by Greg Lellouche in 2013 and recently named the best online store in our Best of the Best awards, No Man Walks Alone exists to source and promote ‘‘original design, thoughtful details, quality materials and craftsmanship.” It’s also developing a strong track record in backing up this thoughtful approach to men’s style with impactful social initiatives.
No Man Walks Alone was one of the first menswear brands (that we know of) to respond to the pandemic. On March 19, the brand announced an initiative to donate 20 percent of its gross margin to Meals on Wheels, a US-based charity that provides hot, healthy meals and essential supplies to the elderly and vulnerable at home—two high-risk demographics for coronavirus. In addition, the brand discounted all online orders by a further 20 percent, “to help our customers to come with us,” as Lellouche puts it. “I figured if we were going to ask customers to support our initiative, it was only fair that we offered them something to say thank you,” he tells Robb Report.
From mid-March to mid-May, No Man Walks Alone donated $24,558 to Meals on Wheels, and funded 495 local programs throughout the US—no small feat for a small company (No Man Walks Alone is currently a team of five). Now, in support of Black Lives Matter, the brand has announced a “Commitment to Support Racial Justice and Fight Inequality.” The five-point strategy has been outlined on Instagram and the No Man Walks Alone website; it’s built around positive action and measurable objectives.
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An update since our last post. We’re making progress on the commitments we laid out, but we need your help to achieve some of those ambitious goals. We’ll do our best to go back to what we do best (selecting great clothes for you all, and showing you why we love them) but we’ll continue to act as a responsible and progressive citizen. Keep us accountable. Keep all the brands that came out with promises and commitments accountable. Thank you.
First up, the brand will donate up to $15,000 per year to five different anti-discrimination charities, and initiate a donation matching program for all customers of up to $10,000 per year. The brand has also committed to the 15 Percent Pledge, promising to devote 15 percent of its virtual shelves to black designers and black-owned brands each year, and to develop a mentorship program for black designers and black-owned brands.
This last point is particularly important to Lellouche. “In my view, the only genuine response to Black Lives Matter is a commitment that will make a difference to the cause. We’re not just offering up supportive words, we’re trying to be a useful resource. That’s also why I like the 15 Percent Pledge—it’s an agreement to a specific metric. Of course, we need to plan how we’re going to get there, but first off, let’s just commit to it. That’s what we need the most right now; commitment to tangible change.”
This is admirable, of course, but so is the way Lellouche and his team are setting an example for brands from all corners of the fashion industry. To this end, the company’s anti-racism strategy ends with the simple promise: “What has been built must be taken apart, rethought and rebuilt.” It might be a small business, but no Man Walks Alone is a leading force in ethical fashion.
Any black designers or brands who’d like to explore the mentorship scheme can reach out to No Man Walks Alone by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.