This Powerful Fashion Video Takes on Police Brutality and Racism

This Powerful Fashion Video Takes on Police Brutality and Racism
Source: Vimeo
Source: Vimeo

A new campaign video for T.I.'s clothing label, AKOO, opens with the booming sound of Michael "Killer Mike" Render's voice asking, "If not us, then who? And if not now, when?"

Killer Mike, a hip-hop artist and activist from Atlanta, continues with tough questions, "Is racism alive? Absolutely. Will you be underestimated, will your efforts be undermined? Absolutely. And guess what, you gotta try. You gotta get up off your ass and overcome the bullshit that's been dumped on you." 

The message: The way to fight hate, racism and conflict like police brutality is to remember our shared humanity.

It's not a message that's common in clothing ads. But from the get-go, T.I., also from Atlanta, wanted to create a video that was thought-provoking without championing any particular political view, according to Directors Notes. AKOO asked director John Merizalde to promote its fall collection in a simple yet powerful way:

The back drop and common thread throughout the film should be that of civil unrest and explore the current severity of modern racism, black on black crime within our own communities and police brutality. We want the film to be informative, high energy, gritty but not preachy.

"Not preachy" — that's perhaps why the video doesn't position cops as the "bad guys" or simplify what they represent. The police pictured are both black and white, as are the teenagers. There are teens ganging up on another teen, along with a scene montage showing a wide variety of crimes and problems in the city; but there are also tender moments between parent and child, as well as groups of friends.

"The campaign pushes a sense of social consciousness and responsibility around issues of racial violence, urging a sense of shared humanity as a way of counteracting increased brutality," Merizalde told Adweek.

The idea was also to prompt social action.

"Our goal was to be reflective of the violence that we inflict on our own community and not just limit the focus on external factors such as poverty, poor education and the actions of the police," Sabai Burnett, AKOO's vice president of marketing, told Adweek. "This film is the crescendo of our artistic viewpoint — heavily graphic and unapologetic. 'If not us, who? If not now, when?'"

The underpinnings of social justice are evident in AKOO's Holiday 2 collection itself. While the clothes themselves are fairly simple — there's plenty of loose denim and graphic tees — the collection is called "11 x Human," with the number representing the number of times that Eric Garner said "I can't breathe." 

Images from AKOO's Instagram, including the clothing from the Holiday 2 collection promoted with "11xHuman"
Source: AKOO Clothing/Instagram

AKOO has been around since around 2009, though it's maintained a low profile it has recently begun revamping itself behind the scenes. A powerful ad campaign like this one will certainly raise its profile even more.

h/t Adweek