Aspiration vs. Reality of Inclusivity and Diversity

Inclusivity in Fashion

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Margaret Mead


There is currently a community of people talking about inclusivity and diversity in fashion. The question I have is, what does it mean to be inclusive and embrace diversity? For me, it’s about addressing the different body types of women and designing around their silhouettes. In showing my collections, I want a variety of women to see themselves wearing them.

Fashion in itself is about evolution. The very nature of fashion is about being adaptive to the social-environmental currency of what is happening now. Currently, there is a lot of buzz about inclusivity in fashion because for some time now, many people have felt underrepresented in the industry. This isn’t necessarily a new issue consumers are having with fashion and especially luxury fashion houses. However, because of the channels customers now have to voice their dissatisfaction, fashion brands are finally hearing it. While the industry has not done all it can yet, there is traction in the last few years from new and established brands acknowledging that the complaints are being heard. We are seeing more diversity on the runways and in fashion editorials with different looking models. There has been an influx of plus size models beyond the current standard models. Personally, I would like to see a representation of models that fall between the two as well.

Inclusivity in Fashion

At least we are moving away from the very homogenized look fashion has been showing the global customer. Not only are we seeing more inclusive and diverse groups shown in pop culture, but we can also see high fashion beginning to represent the global customer. Just because we are seeing movement towards inclusion does not mean the fashion industry is doing all it can to instill change. As long as customers are talking and keeping the conversation going- we as fashion brands need to listen and see what we can do on our part to bridge the needs of the customers while holding true to the values of our brand. If fashion loses the art and allure- customers might lose some of the interest that is appealing in the first place.

“It’s only after you’ve stepped outside your comfort zone that you begin to change, grow, and transform.”

― Roy T. Bennett

Lest we think we are immune to the vanities of fashion, which at its core is about beauty and how we want to look in the clothes we wear. Fashion would not be a billion dollar industry if we did not care about our appearance. Each decade has seen a change in beauty standards but the basics always stay the same- thin people are viewed as more fashionable. This is made all the more obvious, by the models selected to walk the runways. Taller people are more desirable as well, as most female models need to be a minimum of 5’8. Fair skin is considered more in vogue than darker complexions.

The standards set by fashion in both the runways and magazines have conditioned us to accept these are the normal standards even if such standards belong to a smaller percentage of the global population. This is especially true if you are in a westernized culture. We showcase these standards in movies and TV shows and have distributed them all over the world for decades. High fashion in the last century was an exclusive right of Europeans and the top tier of major cities’ citizens. It’s why most models were of fairer complexion since the target customers were as well. It has only been towards the latter decades of the last century that we’ve seen models of color shown on fashion magazine covers. It was headlining news then in the same sense that celebrities of my generation were and reality stars are now. The reality is that fashion needs a certain glamour and sexy sellability.

Each set of beauty standards with every evolution is first met with skepticism. We’ve been trained by the visuals of beautifully shot fashion editorials and ads from brands to accept beauty standards not set to include everyone. It’s hard to expect our accepted standards to change overnight. We need to re-train our visual standards by seeing more of the new changes before society will openly accept them.

Coquette Dress Fete Tuxedo Pant
​​Often, individuals with a personal agenda for change have unrealistic timelines. While the plight is a long-standing one, for someone newly exposed to it it is unrealistic to expect change overnight even if the person can empathize with the situation. It’s not a case of you can’t teach an old dog a new trick, it’s more of you need to invest time to teach and give a chance to learn. We all need to have an open mind so that change is possible through understanding and compromise. It’s a way to transform the normal standards and practices to be more adaptive to the needs of the audience while engaging the customer to embrace the aesthetics of luxury fashion brands.

 

How do you feel about the slow progress towards inclusivity and diversity in the fashion industry? Are we doing all we can to make it a reality or is there more that can be done? Let us know in the comments below.

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