After watching the video of George Floyd’s killing, Jalon Cooper, a recent UNC graduate and creator of VZN Clothing, scrapped all of his recent designs. He then designed three t-shirts, a hoodie and two pairs of shorts in a span of seven hours — all dedicated to the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I felt so intensely while I was doing each design,” Cooper said. “Usually when I do a collection, it can take two months to a year.”
In June, the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor revitalized and ignited one of the most pressing social justice movements in recent years. Whether through Instagram stories, petitions or conversations, it was time for people to be held accountable, educate themselves and bring about change.
Cooper saw his designs as an outlet for that change. He posted his designs on his website soon after, with a message detailing that 100 percent of the proceeds would be donated to the Black Lives Matter fund.
In just 24 hours, VZN Clothing raised $12,000.
Cooper’s favorite design was the “Unarmed & Dangerous” hoodie. The front of the hoodie depicts a pair of hands in a surrender position, seen through the scope of a gun. The powerful image is meant to start a conversation, Cooper said.
“It’s kind of a paradox; it looks pleasing, but it’s really not,” Cooper said. “And that’s kind of going into what’s happening, all the police brutality and violence — we get desensitized.”
Cooper said the issue of police brutality can be difficult to understand and talk about, but he believes a hoodie with a concise message can open the door to having those difficult conversations. There's a lot to unpack with the issue itself, but images can catch your eye and draw you in, he said.
Like Cooper, current UNC sophomore Jaymin Jethwa decided to change his brand's design at the last minute. He created his brand, Rainy Day Clothing, with his friend and N.C. State University sophomore Ryan Scott, and they decided to change their design one day at 3 a.m. — hours before their first drop.
“It was not the time to be promoting our own privilege. We wanted to use the privilege we have to support those who may not,” Jethwa said.
Scott explained that he and Jethwa had to support the movement, regardless of the size of their platform, which only began a couple of months earlier.
The Rainy Day creators decided to place the Black Lives Matter fist on their shirts, with a QR code that leads to an essay written by Jethwa on the BLM movement.
For Jethwa, being South Asian made him feel he needed to spread awareness through his own community. He said he understands his community may not be directly affected by the Black Lives Matter movement, but said they should not be complacent during injustice.
“Whenever anyone wears the shirt, they will see the fist, they will see BLM written across the back,” Jethwa said.
He said he hopes the shirt will serve as a reminder of the movement.
Jethwa and Scott also decided to donate all revenue from the shirts to various local and national charities, ranging from the NAACP to the Know Your Rights Camp. In total, the brand-new clothing brand raised $2,700.
For Jethwa, it’s a movement, not a moment. He said Rainy Day will continue to donate to the BLM fund moving forward with new releases.
“We can’t stop, we can’t take our foot off the gas, we can’t forget,” Jethwa said.
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