Fashion Steps Up at Standing Rock

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Kerby Jean-Raymond of Pyer Moss has found solidarity with protesters fighting to prevent the Dakota Access pipeline from being built near the Standing Rock Reservation.

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Mireya Acierto/Getty Images

Kerby Jean-Raymond, the founder of the independent, critically acclaimed fashion label Pyer Moss, planned to attend more than a dozen events at Art Basel Miami Beach this weekend, including an exhibition that showcases some of his label’s shoes.

Instead, he’ll be flying to North Dakota.

Mr. Jean-Raymond is among a number of designers and brands that are responding to the basic needs of demonstrators fighting to prevent the Dakota Access pipeline from being built near the Standing Rock Reservation out of concern for the environment and Native American ancestral lands.

Activists have requested nylon coveralls, heavy-duty sleeping bags, gloves, wool clothes and blankets, along with monetary donations, on their own websites and on Amazon.

After all, temperatures in Cannon Ball, N.D., the town near which protesters have gathered, range from highs in the low 30s to single digits. And it’s not about to get any warmer. On Monday, Gov. Jack Dalrymple of North Dakota cited “anticipated harsh weather conditions” when issuing a mandatory evacuation order.

Exacerbating the effects of the cold are the water cannons that the police have used against protesters, causing early signs of hypothermia in some.

Over the last several days, Mr. Jean-Raymond, 30, has worked to secure an assortment of warm clothes, using his personal funds and his connections.

“I called Nike and I said, ‘Instead of me keeping a couple of thousand dollars worth of sneakers that I’m not going to wear, let me send these back to you,’” Mr. Jean-Raymond said. “’Let me get some thermals instead.’” In exchange for the free sneakers, he received credits that he then used to purchase thermal clothing. He has also personally purchased outerwear from Uniqlo.

It’s not the first time the designer, whose youthful but streamlined collections often engage with heavy topics, has taken a dive into activism. For his spring 2016 show, Mr. Jean-Raymond prepared a short film about race relations in the United States. And two years ago, he designed a T-shirt listing names of victims of police brutality, profits from which went to the American Civil Liberties Union.

Designers with less visible profiles have also jumped in to help Standing Rock demonstrators.

Bethany Yellowtail, a Los Angeles-based designer who is a member of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe and who grew up on the Crow reservation in Montana, created a line of “Protector Gear,” including T-shirts, hoodies, water bottles and hats, with profits to go directly to the Standing Rock Sioux, the tribe leading the protests. So far, the effort has raised over $10,000, Ms. Yellowtail said.

Louie Gong, founder of the brand Eighth Generation, sent 60 blankets to the Standing Rock campsite, at a cost he estimated to be about $10,000. “It seems like a small and superficial sacrifice, however, when compared to our cousins sleeping in tents that are covered in snow,” Mr. Gong, who grew up in the NookSack tribe, wrote in an email.

Bliss and Mischief, a Los Angeles brand, is donating 15 percent of proceeds from every purchase until the end of 2016 to a cause of the customer’s choice, with the Standing Rock Sioux offered as an option.

And at least one major corporation is involved. Patagonia gave a $25,000 grant to the Indigenous Environmental Network, a nongovernmental organization, to support the indigenous community at Standing Rock.

Ms. Yellowtail expressed enthusiasm about the outflow of support the tribes have received, but she cautioned non-Native American volunteers, whether in the fashion industry or otherwise, against blindly appropriating the cause of the tribes at Standing Rock.

“They’re not asking allies to come out and speak for them, they’re asking for people to stand in solidarity and be supportive,” she said. “Ask yourself: Are you going for your own agenda or to listen and follow protocol?”

For Mr. Jean-Raymond, the purpose of his trip is simple. “I’m bringing as much supplies as I can out there,” he said. “If I can do anything past that, I’ll do it. If I feel like I’m unnecessary, I’ll leave.”

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