Fashion industry is latest to seek increased diversity

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By Taylor Goodson

Contributing Writer

LOS ANGELES — Following in the steps of the entertainment industry, the fashion industry is calling for more diversity when it comes to women and men of color.

For more than 100 years, the fashion community has been made up of mainly white people. The representation of Black people in the industry is hardly even acknowledged, but that is starting to change.

Gaynelle Winston-White, owner of Inglewood clothing brand Philthy Ragz, said there has been a significant shift regarding diversity in the fashion industry but it needs to go further.

“It would include everyone, every race, every style, every gender, every age in all parts of the fashion industry,” she said. “It would also include mentorships from huge designers across cultures and races, inevitably providing more exposure and opportunities.”

Women’s Wear Daily, in its review of the 2021 Golden Globes Awards and the fashions that were on display that night, discussed fashion the lack of black designers being showcased at the esteemed award show.

West Coast Executive Editor Booth Moore praised celebrities styled by white stylists for showcasing Black designers on the virtual red carpet while also making it seem as if to have a more diverse fashion world, the “talent” should control and showcase the black designers.

Moore’s statement has some valid points, but there also are some issues that can be challenged. Making fashion more inclusive and diverse should not have to be in the hands of black designers, stylists, celebrities and writers. It should be the industry’s obligation to support diversity.

The Women’s Wear Daily article led Los Angeles-based fashion stylist Jason Bolden and Law Roach to go live via Instagram to express their thoughts on Moore’s story and the racial divide in fashion today.

The 52-minute Instagram message brought up a lot of issues facing the fashion community. High-up fashion leaders are pushing for a change, but nothing is happening.

Both stylists spoke about the battles it takes to make it in the fashion industry as a black man or woman. Both black stylists discussed “the list,” a listing given to new talent from agencies that enables them to choose a stylist,  publicists, managers and more.

Bolden and Roach both said “the list” doesn’t contain enough black creatives and professionals. Bolden even goes on to express that white celebrities are given the utmost respect and praise when they incorporate a Black designer or stylist in their circle, but the praise is not vice versa for black celebrities.

Moore later made a public apology that stated, “I did not mean to imply that it is only the responsibility of a Black stylist or a Black talent to support Black designers.”

The Council of Fashion Designers of America partnered up with the PVH Corp., formerly known as the Phillips-Van Heusen Corporation to release “The State of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in Fashion Study & Report,” one of the first big calls to action on diversity and inclusion by a major fashion company.

The report went into detail about “a definitive work of research and suggests next steps to drive toward representative and equitable workplaces throughout the American fashion industry.

The council’s statement said the council’s prime focus is to look at the industry’s stakeholders to promote an industry that is “diverse, equitable and inclusive.”

My only hope is that it is not a trend and is actually going to remain,” Winston-White said. “Not just because last year Black Lives Matter had more visibility, but because it is something that is truly necessary to propel our society into the space in which it needs to be more acceptance of all.”

In February, during New York Fashion Week, the Blacks in Fashion Council partnered with IMG models to highlight the work of 16 emerging Black designers in a four-day showcase. The collaboration allowed the fashion industry to get a glimpse at talented black designers that usually go unseen.

Stoney Michelli Love, who owns the Los Angeles-based clothing brand, Stuzo Clothing, said “the big leaders are slowly starting to take the steps to diversify the fashion industry.”

“Not as quick and efficient as they could, though,” she added. “They have the power and platform to make real change rapidly. However, it seems as though they take action only on months that widely highlight people of color and all other underrepresented people.”

Also during February, Nordstrom honored Black History Month with a commitment to advance diversity, inclusion and belonging. Nordstrom developed a set of goals that are most crucial to diversity in fashion.

“We are a part of the communities we serve, and that means we have a responsibility to create a sense of welcoming and belonging for all,” Pete Nordstrom, chief brand officer and president of Nordstrom, Inc, said.

But more still needs to be done.

“Making a Black or brown person the face of your brand is a step in the right direction, but it’s about mentoring aspiring designers and helping build generational wealth within those communities,” said Sara Angelucci, a designer and creative director of Armature.