Diversity and Inclusivity in the Fashion Industry
For the greater part of fashion history, the industry has curated and maintained a singular standard of beauty; fashion has always pandered to a specific kind of beauty when it comes to racial, ethnic, physical and age standards. However, in recent times, things are changing. This is why there is the topic of diversity in the first place.
In recent times, we have seen more representation from previously ignored demographics in the fashion industry. Last year alone, there were a lot of grounds broken, histories made and stories told. Dreadlocks made an appearance in Dior’s Fall 2018 couture show, brands began designing with wheelchair models in mind, and there was a massive 34% representation of women of color in fashion in spring alone; these are just tips of the diversity iceberg.
Nowadays, there is also more encouragement of gender-fluid fashion. Until now, queer fashion has never had much of a footing in the fashion world. But with instances like H&M’s collaboration with cult footwear brand Eyts, ASOS’ Collusion which plans to “constantly evolve, being as inclusive, collaborative and experimental as possible”. Also, with Balenciaga playing with gender-neutral symbolism for their Resort SS19 collection, we’re seeing increasing efforts to push into a gender-fluid territory.
Also, a plus size fashion retailer 11 Honoré opened the New York Fashion Week recently. This is a rare achievement seeing that traditional Fashion statements have always involved models on the skinnier end of the spectrum being flag bearers.
Of course, while conventions are being broken, as expected, there have also been criticism of certain aspects of diversity. One of the trickiest bones of contention is the conflation of diversity and inclusion. A school of thought that challenges this notion is dissatisfied that these two terms often get lumped together, making real understanding and recognition of the barriers facing non-white people difficult. “Casting of different races of people on the runway or in campaigns,” Chantal Fernandez of BOF writes, “while the designers and executives calling the shots behind the scenes remain unchanged — and not reflective of the consumers a brand is trying to attract.”
While these concerns are valid, it is probably in the best interest of progressiveness to keep pushing for diversity in such a way that it transcends from being just a trend to a lifestyle.
It’s a start, this discussion of diversity. It’s why this conversation, this social awareness exists in the first place. The endgame of diversity in fashion is a socially, culturally and physically diverse fashion world, fully reflective of the grander world that we live in.