The controversy surrounding the Occupy Wall Street movement has hit the fashion world, thanks to a controversial T-shirt that was supposed to be released by hip-hop artist and clothing designer Jay-Z.
Last week, Jay-Z was photographed wearing an “Occupy All Streets” t-shirt while performing at Madison Square Garden. Friend and fellow hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons jumped on Twitter to post a backstage snapshot of himself standing next to Jay-Z.
“Jay-Z just took #OccupyWallStreet to a whole new level. wowowowowowoow,” Simmons remarked. Jay-Z started the shirts selling for $22 via his clothing company Rocawear.
But Occupy supporters were less than thrilled. After receiving widespread criticism from Occupy leaders for attempting to profit off the movement, Jay-Z's camp pulled them from the Rocawear site.
Simmons responded via an interview with Billboard:
What's wrong with selling goodness? There's nothing wrong with it. It's not the most preferred. In yogi scripture, at least, the highest form of giving is giving without expectation. Selfless. But a lot of people need incentive.
You should sell things you're happy about. You should sell products that you're inspired by, that promote lasting and stable well-being. Give the world something or sell the world something that you're proud of. Jay-Z didn't make a T-shirt [that said] “F— the Bums on the Street.” He wrote a T-shirt “Occupy All Streets” – I'm happy, it furthers the movement, it inspires the movement.
Listen, I'm going to get every corporation that wants to support us to get branding as part of the process. No one's against business. We're against business having too much control over our government.
Simmons has been the subject of criticism for his own association with Occupy. Though he's been outspoken about supporting the movement, he is obviously part of the 1%. He was seen visiting Occupy New York with Kanye West, Katy Perry, Angela Davis, which outraged many Occupy supporters, who didn't appreciate rich celebrities gawking at them.
Simmons attempted to explain his presence at Occupy in a recent interview with ThisIs50:
What the fuck…do I gotta be that selfish? It's okay to run a charity and give back and everybody applauds you. But you can't go down and show solidarity to people that are suffering? You can't want a better America just because you're an American and you want not only America but the world to be a better place?
Simmons defended his own $250 million fortune in his interview with Billboard, noting his track record for consistently giving back to poor and disenfranchised people around the world.
“I'm going to get every corporation that wants to support us to get branding as part of the process,” Simmons said. “No one's against business. We're against business having too much control over our government.”