By all accounts, the November elections are shaping up to be one for the record books. Not only will it include the first women of color as the Vice Presidential candidate for a major party, but the country also will be voting during a pandemic — a situation that is introducing all number of logistical challenges.
To help encourage Americans to cast their ballots (either in person or by mail), a growing list of brands and retailers are helping get out the vote. Many are launching consumer-facing initiatives to whip up excitement ahead of November, while others have pledged to close their offices on Election Day to give employees an opportunity to head to the polls.
More from Footwear News
Below is list of all the footwear organizations celebrating our civic duty:
The Brother Vellies designer teamed up with Keds to launch a vote-themed sneaker, and 100% of proceeds will be donated to When We All Vote, a nonpartisan organization launched in 2018 by Michelle Obama and Valerie Jarrett to increase participation in every election. The canvas sneaker features a special message handwritten by James supporting When We All Vote, and come with special laces and a Brother Vellies charm. The shoes retail for $95 and are sold exclusively on Brothervellies.com. In addition, Brother Vellies is launching $35 crew socks, sold separately, that pair perfectly with the Keds kicks. For every pair of socks sold, $5 will go to When We All Vote.
Birdies teamed up with Danielle Stern of Leftys Right Mind to launch the Vote Collection to help raise awareness and encourage women to register to vote. The five styles are hand-painted with symbols representing women’s journey toward voting. Designs include the word “empowered” in soft script; a yellow rose in honor of suffragists who wore the flower-shaped pin in 1920 during a rally in Nashville to ratify the 19th Amendment; and stars in purple, white and yellow as a nod to the women’s suffrage movement. They are selling for $165 a pair on Birdies.com.
Birkenstock is giving its U.S.-based workers a paid holiday to vote in the 2020 presidential election on Nov. 3. (It has about 200 employees in the country.) “We are certainly not doing it to make a political statement or a social statement,” CEO of Birkenstock Americas David Kahan. “We really just want to empower our workforce.”
In June, Tapestry-owned Coach made its first foray into politics when it announced a partnership with More Than a Vote, a nonprofit created earlier this year by LeBron James and other pro athletes, aimed at combating voter suppression in the Black community. Chief marketing officer Carlos Becil told FN that Coach has promised to mobilize its full resources, including employees, stores and collaborators, to amplify the organization’s mission. “Our country is in a unique moment in time where racial inequalities, specifically those affecting the Black community, have reached every corner of the national dialogue,” said Cecil. “Coach believes American companies need to take responsibility to drive change, and this is a year of change.”
Footwear Distributors & Retailers of America
FDRA launched the online education center ShoeVoter.info in July. The nonpartisan online hub, which is maintained by a third party, offers users a range of information, including their state’s registration rules and deadlines, absentee ballot guidelines, voting locations and requirements, plus a list of candidates in their district. “We felt like this election year, with everything going on, we could build something that would be a one-stop shop for footwear companies to get their employees educated and activated,” said Andy Polk, SVP at FDRA.
GapKids’ fall ad campaign, “Be the Future,” has a mission to amplify young voices calling for change, and inspire the next generation of activists and leaders. In addition to ads featuring youth change makers, the campaign includes non-medical grade face masks with the words “Vote” and “Be the Future,” selling on Gap.com for $18 for a 3-pack. Proceeds benefiting When We All Vote and Rock the Vote. In addition, Gap will be partnering with the two nonprofits to help inspire its community to register to vote this election year.
In addition to collaborating with Aurora James this year on a pair of sneakers to benefit the When We All Vote organization, Keds is still offering a pair of sneakers created last year with designer Rachel Antonoff. Launching on National Voter Registration Day in 2019, the Triple Kick platform shoe is detailed with the worlds “Hysterical Female” and was intended to promote social change and raise awareness for women’s rights. They’re selling for $75 on Keds.com.
Kenneth Cole invited design students and graduates to create artwork that will inspire voters for the election. The brand provided students with a choice of three messages: “If You Don’t Vote, We Don’t Exist,” “You Vote, We Exist” and “Vote to Exist,” which they used to create illustrations and graphic designs. The brand will be posting the top entries on its own social channels, and also will receive help sharing the messages from CFDA, Civics Center, Civic Alliance, College Fashionista, I Am A Voter, TurboVote and Vote Early Day 2020.
Levi’s was an early supporter of the Time to Vote initiative that launched in 2018 with the goal to increase voter turnout. Chip Bergh, president and CEO of Levi Strauss & Co., posted a passionate Op-Ed on CNN’s website recently that called on all CEOs to get on board. “Even in the best of times, voter turnout in the United States is one of the lowest in the developed world, and it doesn’t help that many Americans struggle every election season to get time off work to vote,” Bergh writes. “It’s our duty to make it as easy as possible for our employees to vote, especially given the unique challenges voters are facing this year.”
On Aug. 13, Naturalizer launched a shoe collaboration that draws attention to the importance of voting. Together with Rebecca Lee Funk, founder of activist network The Outrage, the Caleres-owned brand debuted the limited-edition Callie heeled boots that spell out the words “VOTE” in capital letters on the toes. The boots are available now on Naturalizer.com and TheOutrage.com for $150, with a portion of proceeds going to She Should Run, a nonprofit that supports women running for office.
Nike announced in early August it was linking up with “Time to Vote,” a nonpartisan effort to increase voter participation. Since voting laws and procedures vary across the country — especially this year — Nike has made a broad commitment to the cause. “This may include paid time off on Election Day, making Election Day a day without meetings or providing resources for mail-in ballots and early voting,” the company said in the statement.
Early this year, Madden launched an in-store campaign to register young customers. Though the coronavirus halted some of those plans, the designer told FN other efforts are underway: “We will be shifting gears and focusing on digital efforts across all channels through November,” he said. “Safety at the polls and voter education will be a big part of that messaging, in addition to voter registration and how to vote by mail.” In addition, Steve Madden’s corporate U.S. offices will be closed on Nov. 3 so that employees have time to vote.
Sign up for FN’s Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.