FASHION IS GETTING BETTER AT DIVERSITY, BUT WHAT ABOUT INCLUSIVITY?
Diversity and inclusion have become some of the most talked-about topics this year, especially within the fashion industry. They go hand in hand, but do you know the difference between the two? The discussion around equality is on the spotlight (better late than never!), but somehow the diversity and inclusion meanings got lost in the debates, being used sometimes as synonyms when they’re rather different steps towards the same goal: all of us being represented equally despite our differences.
Nowadays we see different ethnicities, races, genders, and ages represented in most catwalks. It can definitely be seen as great progress, but is it enough?
Since 2014 the percentage of racial diversity on New York Fashion Week, one of the four fashion capitals and known for having the most progressive casting of them, has jumped from 20.9% to 46.8% at their Spring 2020 edition. Don’t get me wrong, this is a huge achievement and we should acknowledge it, but we shouldn’t see it as if our mission is accomplished. If only six years ago in one of the most revolutionary fashion weeks the percentage was that low, imagine how it used to be and still is in other countries.
Watching a catwalk show that has a mix of models from varied backgrounds rather than entirely made up of white young girls is diversity. Diversity is having a range of people from various racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, and cultural environments represented in the same place. It’s the first step that leads to inclusion – if the brands are willing to go that far. While diversity can be easily ‘shown’ to the public on the runway and marketing campaigns, being more inclusive means making changes in deeply rooted white privilege practices.
Diversity is giving a seat at the table to an underrepresented group, inclusion is giving them a voice and actively hearing what they have to say. Inclusion is hiring these people, making them feel valued and comfortable in the workplace, letting them speak and be part of decision-making processes. Inclusion is having a diverse team working at the backstage of that same catwalk show we were talking about.
“While diversity is an outward commitment to represent as many different communities and people as possible, inclusivity, as it pertains to fashion, can be more inward. Who is sitting at your table, and are they empowered to speak honestly and frankly? Is that inclusivity seen at the top of the organisation, as well as in more junior roles?”, said Lynette Nylander, editor and advisory board member at Fashion Minority Alliance, in an interview to Harper’s Bazaar.
When we understand the differences between these two crucial aspects that can lead the industry towards equality and to a more conscious practice, we know what to ask from the brands and when to hold them accountable for their actions. It’s not enough to use minorities for promotion and marketing but not give them a voice inside the company. Now that we know that, we aren’t taking it lightly.
By Manuela Rio Tinto