THE CURIOUS CASE OF DiVersity in Fashion
Fashion is an ever revolving door that some of us love, we consume it; we see it every day. Love it or hate it you can’t get away from the trend or the must have item. But as a consumer, I know fashion is not necessarily representative of the whole population. In fact, it’s not representative of me.
There have been long-standing discussions of the lack of diversity within the Fashion Industry. When I originally wrote this original article in 2015, there was limited variety for women of colour. In the last three years, there has been a marked improvement Ralph Lauren’s Feb 2017 runway show was one of the more diverse shows this season (which I saw). The Lanvin Show was a pretty feminine chiffon, with clean lines and spiral detailing and a twist of Tudors. I saw one non-white model on the catwalk her outfit was cute, tbh I would buy it, as I saw it on someone who looked like me.
Now put it this way, as a female, I purchase via sight, I often buy things based on visuals, yet when it comes to clothes I rarely try things on before purchasing, especially if I am buying online. So I purchase by what it looks like on someone who looks similar to me. I can see why youtube is so useful for brands such Aritiza; I joined their mailing list based on the recommendation of a v-logger. Youtube is a diversity hot bed for content creation which is representative of me and to be fair I hardly see those images in Vogue, so I will refer to youtube. Up until now, my Vogue subscription is back on from August.
I feel the recruitment process often has a part to play to ensuring teams are more gender and diversely inclusive this well aid in content which is representative of their customer demographic. For example, Pepsi’s recent culturally inappropriate advert of Kendall Jenner handing a police officer a can of Pepsi. Which was a mimic of (I’ve omitted her name as I can’t figure out the correct name online) ‘The girl in the flower dress’ interaction with police at Baton Rouge Black Lives Matter protest is a prime example of cultural appropriation by a brand? We often hear larger brands dragging smaller brands into court for the infringement of intellectual property or brands just straight up stealing smaller brands work. It makes me wonder if Jonathan Bachman was compensated appropriately for the likeness to his photo?
You may ask what has that got to do with fashion, well it has a lot. Fashion is the connector between politics, relationship, and everyday association. Style can divide and or conquer. Without fashion, we are just naked. Would the Baton Rouge picture be as compelling if all parties were naked? Fashion is a catalyst for change, during World War II fashion houses closed due to the occupation of Germany in Paris. Dior was a pioneer of accentuating women’s bodies after the war, as the wartime rations were removed it meant clothing was no longer designed as a necessity, but a luxury. It was back to beauty in Paris.
Now let us imagine the Pepsi recruitment process was more culturally inclusive, there may have been a roundtable discussion on the impact the advert may have had on the target audience. It is very hard to believe no one on the team asked the question, what would our customers think of this image?
What makes it even more disturbing is if there was a culturally diverse team and they did not speak up because they felt their opinions would be dismissed then Pepsi should find an anonymous way for staff to give honest feedback on campaigns to ensure staff are not humiliated or reprimanded for their opinions. If a company cannot take constructive criticism then really, someone needs to take their job less personal.
Now back to fashion, Alexandra Shulman handed in her notice early 2017. However, I was shocked and triumphal to hear Edward Enninful has given the role of Vogue Editor. When I studied English years ago, there is a theory whenever you put a but after a sentence, you remove the last sentence. Example heading ‘Edward Enniful may not have been the most obvious choice for Vogue editor, but he could be what fashion needs.’ The Telegraph.
Based on what I was taught the headline reads ‘He could be what fashion needs. Let me take a wild guess; I bet one of Victoria Moss’ long-term friends or associates applied for the role of Editor and thought they had it in the bag. I’m saying this as comparing the journalist’s headline to the New York Times version “Edward Enninful as British Vogue Editor: A Barrier Breaking Choice”. Now, I could go through each article and compare the tones and the implied statements, i.e., the read between the lines theory. To me the Telegraph headline came across as passive aggressive. The article was still actually interesting.
I used to subscribe to Vogue, and I think the last issue I played attention to properly was the article about the then creative director of Tiffany’s who discussed what attributes makes a great artistic director. So, as a Vogue customer Yes, Edward is what Vogue needs and to be honest Fashion in general. When the longstanding editor of Vogue Italia Franca Sozzani passed away, she left behind her a strong legacy. Franca was a pioneer in the diversity and used fashion as a platform for awareness on everything from race, domestic violence to gender. In 2008 Edward contributed to Franca’s acclaimed Black Issue.
I have been pondering for a while. Why is it that up until recently Luxury brands haven’t been tapping into the needs of their ethnic customers? A.Hoffman (2010) wrote an excellent book on the Affluence of African-American demographic called ‘Black is the New Green’ and A.Hoffman named ‘a affluent ethnic group of any non-white ethnicity as ‘Royaltons.’
Let me throw some figures around here from Black is the New Green by 2012 the mass buying power of Affluent African-Americans would reach a total of $1.1 Trillion. In a survey carried out by Diversity Affluence and Uptown magazine in 2008 (A.Hoffman 2010) found that over a fifth of respondents went clothes shopping at least once a week, and over a tenth travelled on business at least once a week. 46% of those surveyed said they shopped “Frequently’ for luxury items.
In general, all brands need to be tapping into the untapped market of Royalton; I mean how big is Africa, how much more pairs or shoes, bags, and make-up could you sell? You, name it African women love a matching shoes and bags. Do you know how much more you could sell can if you thought about your marketing more diversely? I know there are numbers of African women who are really into Luxury fashion (but we can save that for another time) How many high net worth individuals are from Africa? Well, According to Forbes there are two women on the Forbes Africa’s 50 Richest, and they have a combined wealth of whopping $4.8 billion, and one of them started off in an upscale fashion.
I think Luxury brands are missing a trick when it comes to finding the right way to target their ethnic customers. It’s not just Asia Pacific and the Middle East they should be trying to understand and finding solutions on entering the Africa market and the potential of Africa. Here is one idea, if you are that concerned use Luxury Hotels as a way to test the market. How, if you ask me I will tell you, obviously for a fee. Now how many more ideas would you hear if your teams were more culturally diverse?
To me the recruitment of Edward is a giant step in the righg direction for recruiting, Conde Nast are hiring on competencies attributed to the role and so what he is not a journalist. Are we not aware of transferring skills from other sectors are as beneficial as having the direct experience from the same sector.
Damn right I think Edward’s role is game changer in fashion.
People need to stop being so blind sighted in regards to recruiting, the old way of recruiting is not fit for purpose.
Que, next article on the use of social media in the recruitment process.
What are you thoughts in the diversity in recruiting?