Grace Pickford reports on the underlying ethnic inequalities that still exist within the fashion industry.
The Black Lives Matter Protests of 2020 sparked anti-racist expressions throughout the fashion industry. Brands such as Nike, Gucci, and Marc Jacobs all shared support for the movement on social media. Other brands such as Rhianna’s Savage X Fenty donated money to charities, stating on Instagram “There’s nothing else we can say that wasn’t already perfectly said by our founder, Rihanna.”
However, as British-Nigerian fashion designer, Tolu Coker, expresses in an article written for the Guardian, even though “proclamations of solidarity” by fashion brands are “well intended”, she states that the fashion industry has “evaded the most pressing causes of institutionalised racism within fashion: access and equity.”
To exist within the fashion industry and have the ability to make a name for yourself, it requires a high cost. The expenses needed for memberships, endorsements, runway shows and clothing collections mean that emerging designers cannot afford to be seen and heard by industry moguls, indicating how the fashion industry remains a highly exclusive one.
“It is data that unquestionably shows that black people are underrepresented in the very industries which claim to want to make space for them. Creative industries are not diverse in terms of ethnicity, with particularly low numbers of black and minority ethnic workers across museums, galleries and libraries (2.7%); film, TV, radio and photography (4.2%); and music, performing and visual arts (4.8%).”
By distancing fashion from its “elitist practices”, it ignores the core systemic problems within our society. Coker states that the BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) context of showing percentages of people within higher education is swayed by the disproportionate amount of Asian students who pay huge amounts of money to study abroad. Therefore, these percentages are just one example of systemic racist injustice.
For the fashion industry to truly be able to move forward with anti-racism as a core element, elitist, exclusive and systemic inequity must first be recognised and transformed.
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