An article in the New York Times discusses the issue of diversity amongst Fashion Designers in the New York Fashion week line up.
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Vanessa Friedman writes, “Though no one would say that the ethnic makeup of every industry needs to reflect exactly the ethnic makeup of the population at large (African-Americans represent just over 13 percent of the United States population), and the American fashion industry is no less diverse than the British or French or Italian fashion industries (indeed, it may be more so), the lack of African-American representation in the New York establishment is striking.”
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Friedman goes on to say, “First, the very vocal and active way the industry finds “inspiration” in African-American culture, from the music world (Rihanna was awarded the CFDA Fashion Icon prize last June, while Vogue named her the single biggest influence on the spring 2014 catwalks) to street culture; second, the buying power of the African-American consumer, which Nielsen estimated will reach $1.3 trillion by 2017; and finally, the fact that it is a basic tenet of fashion in a global world that the more diverse points of view on a design team, the more broadly relevant and (probably) desirable the end product will be — and hence the more successful the brand.”
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Friedman interviewed everyone from Bethann Hardison to Andre Leon Talley, who all speculated that educational and socioeconomic realities present barriers to entry.
In an industry where connections and networks are key, black designers are definitely at a disadvantage; couple that with the tremendous costs associated with distribution and promotion, and the landscape looks quite bleak.
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I think a race specific fashion incubator that awards grants to designers of color would be a step in the right direction. Though affirmative action seems to be a relic of the past, I believe it’s still necessary given the realities of the fashion world.
What do you think?
Read more on the New York Times.