Is Diversity in Fashion a trend? In some ways, it is. I’ve been writing about and documenting issues of diversity in fashion (interspersed with celeb style of course) for over a decade now. I remember back in July 2008, when Vogue asked, “Is Fashion Racist?“ One of the opening lines of the piece included someone rolling their eyes, asking, “Are we still talking about this?” Yes. Yes we are. Because fashion can be racist. Yes, sadly, we still have a problem.
Pyer Moss designer Kerby Jean-Raymond, known for his unapologetic and outspoken takes on political and civil rights issues through style, met with this issue first hand, at the Business of Fashion BOF 500 gala a few days ago in Paris. He was offput by an unsettling and seemingly random black choir that welcomed everyone into the gathering. To add insult to injury, the owner of BOF, Imran Amed, apparently didn’t acknowledge him for his contributions to diversity. Amed later danced with the church choir like he was Kirk Franklin (these are Jean-Raymond’s words, not mine). Read about the full incident here.
We’ve seen many awkward attempts on behalf of fashion insiders and brands to show that they’re down. Some go over better than others. Gucci has been doing their best to show they are very sorry about the red lipped, black face evoking ski mask that got everyone, most notably TI, pledging to boycott the brand.
Gucci’s response? In addition to truly highlighting their collaboration with Dapper Dan, created a Changemakers committee, hired Renée Tirado to lead the Diversity charge, and recently announced that they were collaborating with Gucci Mane on their Cruise 2020 collection (the announcement was accompanied by a fun ad campaign). Some would say “We Made It!” So why aren’t we happy?
The fashion industry is not perfect. Though I don’t know Imran Amed of Business of Fashion, his conduct, which skewed offensive to Jean-Raymond, cannot be said for the entire industry. Some brands, ‘get it,’. This Fendi x Nicki Minaj collaboration? Genius. Pure Fire.
Other brands are making efforts and we’re still hurt. Judging from the comments on this Gucci Mane post, quite a few Fashion Bomb Daily readers are still side-eyeing Gucci. “Nice try, “they say, “But you’ll need to work a little harder to win back my dollars, patronage, and affection.”
People of color are not one monolithic group. We don’t all feel and act the same way. Some boycott Gucci, others embrace. The same goes for the ‘Fashion Industry.’ Some brands are getting it all the way right. Some are trying, and sorta succeeding. Some are all the way wrong! But, as long as we keep having these discussions, being vocal and letting people know that we are here and that our talent, culture, and voices demand respect, we will continue to break doors down and have empowering conversations that lead to improvements.
I was so encouraged by all the black talent I saw at New York Fashion Week this season. From Laquan Smith to Pyer Moss, from Studio 189 to Serena Williams, Telfar, Christopher John Rogers, Aliette and more, we are representing stronger than ever before. There used to be a time when only two black designers showed at Fashion Week (Tracy Reese and Baby Phat). There was a time when the CFDA board had little to no diversity. Well, that actually still might be the case.
Even still, we have come very far. But we still have a ways to go.
I for one, was not at the BOF 500 Gala. I’m not ‘on the list.’ And that’s ok. Today I listened to a sermon by TD Jakes. Something told me to get with GOD this morning and the first thing I clicked on said, “Your destiny, your future, is not predicated on the decision of someone else. You wasted too much of your life trying to change other people’s minds about you. It doesn’t matter what they think about you. GOD is not going to bless you by their opinion. GOD will bless you by how you see yourself.”
So I would say to any young person aspiring to be in the ‘fashion industry,’ : your career in fashion is what you make it. You have the power, at the end of your fingertips, to create the change you wish to see. You don’t have to wait for the Business of Fashion, CFDA, Vogue, or anyone else to give you a ribbon to say, “Good Job,” “You’re On the List.” You don’t have to wait on them to “get it right.” Be whoever you are, authentically. Claim your space, unapologetically. Stand up for what you believe in. It doesn’t matter how the ‘industry’ sees you, it’s about how you see yourself.
They’ll catch on–eventually.
To have me come speak about diversity in fashion or keynote your next event, email email@example.com.