Welcome to the first post of the Diversity and Inclusivity Series. This series will explore the various aspects of diversity and inclusivity such as race, gender, age, culture, size and disabilities and why it is so important for brands to be inclusive for all.
The fashion industry in particular, has long been criticised for its lack of diversity and representation, from the models walking down the runway, to the lack of people of colour in the top tier (creative directors, c-suite/board of executives etc) of organisations. With the recent Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement following the death of George Floyd, we have seen a number of brands acknowledging that they need to make changes within their organisations to become more diverse. However, fashion brands in general are guilty of only responding to problems as they arise, using movements such as BLM as a marketing tool, before going back to their old ways. Hopefully this will no longer be the case. As we saw in BLM consumers and previous staff of organisations are calling out brands that are simply using movements to better themselves, with no real effort to address the important issues.
I watched a Business of Fashion Live Webinar the other day, where Derrick Gay, a Diversity and Inclusion Strategist (who has worked with Tom Ford and a number of other brands), identified that there are only benefits to brands becoming more diverse and inclusive for the long term. He acknowledged that it will help brands to resonate with a larger audience which helps to optimise the brand’s bottom line and will help to achieve and sustain deeper employee engagement within a business. From my research on the subject, I think there are a few simple steps that brands could take to become more diverse and inclusive-
1. Build diversity into a long term goal and strategy for the brand
Align the business with organisations and movements, working to make changes in diversity and inclusivity. Integrate representation throughout the entire organisation- from sourcing, to models, from design to marketing.
2. Acknowledge where there is privilege, and how they can help those without that privilege
It is so easy to forget when you are in a majority group and it can be hard to see things from other people’s perspectives who don’t have the same privilege. I recently watched a fabulous TedTalk by Sinéad Burke, who was born with inherited achondroplasia (a common form of dwarfism), which made me see how something as simple as going to a coffee shop can have challenges for those of a shorter height. It is a real eye opener and definitely worth a watch.
3. Practice what you preach- Don’t just use diversity as a marketing tool
Once the publicity has gone, ensure you stay motivated to the cause and put plans into action.
4. Raise awareness, empower and value the work of others
The brand could use its influence to become more involved with programmes to tackle systemic issues and raise greater awareness of diversity issues. They should also ensure when hiring, to consider more diverse candidates and empower all staff and value their work in the workplace.
Thanks for reading my thoughts, and I cannot wait to continue the Diversity and Inclusivity Series. What moves do you think brands can make to become more diverse and inclusive? Let me know in the comments!
* Photos sourced from Google Images, and Sinéad Burke’s Instagram