Given COVID-19, the Black Lives Matter Movement, and the 2020 United States presidential election, there were times this year when apparel, sneakers, and consumption felt frivolous. But following the abhorrent murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many others, we saw a different side of the fashion industry. Some brands finally recognized the impact white supremacy and systemic racism have on the world and acknowledged that they could do better with diversifying their staffs, marketing campaigns, and giving back to the influential communities and creators that affect their bottom lines. It’s hard to tell whether or not this will be a trend or a lasting consideration, but it was good to know that at least people are thinking about the racial disparities Black people face every day.
Streetwear in particular, which is driven by people of color, came together to help those in need. Following a big sneaker release at the NBA All-Star game in 2020, Joe Fresh Goods turned a failed Adidas collaboration into a drive-through fundraiser for Chicago. Brain Dead’s Kyle Ng raised over $800,000 selling T-shirts and donated the money to various Black Lives Matter charities. Fear of God’s Jerry Lorenzo teamed up with multiple brands to create a T-shirt that flipped the Fear of God logo from “FG” to “GF” in honor of George Floyd and his daughter Gianna Floyd—100 percent of the proceeds went to her fund. And Pyer Moss’ Kerby Jean-Raymond started organizing early in the pandemic to provide PPE to healthcare workers in need. This list is mainly based on the product brands create and the buzz they generate, but if 2020 taught us anything, it’s that a T-shirt is more than a T-shirt, and being a conscious consumer isn’t only cool, it’s integral. We commend brands that respect the people they pull from, sell to, and don’t only view them as a transaction. Here’s to more of that in 2021. But in the meantime, these are the best brands of 2020.