Are the days of The Devil Wears Prada over? Not quite. Despite 'diversity' and 'sustainability' becoming fashionable buzz words in recent years, little has changed and there's a long way to go before the industry can truly say it represents modern society. Reporting that '68% of people have experienced or witnessed discrimination in the fashion industry based on appearance or beliefs', in their latest paper Representation and Inclusion in the Fashion Industry the leading think tank Fashion Roundtable set out how the system can change its ways.
Working towards a world where politics and fashion work seamlessly together, Fashion Roundtable, which was launched by Tamara Cincik in 2017, addresses inequalities in fashion and aims to give a voice to those the industry has previously shut out. They have previously launched two papers dedicated towards documenting and waylaying the effects of Brexit, taken over the SHOWstudio Instagram, and written a report onCleaning Up Fashion. Now, through their work as the secretariat for the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Textiles and Fashion (T&F APPG), chaired by Dr Lisa Cameron MP, they're reporting on disability, race and LGBTQ+ in the sector, together with highlighting the work that is yet to be done.
Fashion Roundtable and the T&F APPG conducted five parliamentary evidence sessions, where they asked people from all over the industry to submit their experiences, from designers to models to educators. The 'Are You Represented' campaign launched at London Fashion Week in September 2019 also heard from 337 members of the public, from fashion professionals to consumers. 83% agreed that the UK government should demand better representation and inclusion in the fashion industry.
'We must challenge the systems that tell us, time and time again, that beauty is found in archetypal norms...True representation is about authenticity, empathy and collaboration. In fashion and politics, we must do everything to ensure that a full spectrum of identities are heard, valued and showcased in the most creative of ways. This is where real beauty lies,' says Lottie Jackson, disability activist and editor at Fashion Roundtable.
The paper's key findings:
- Discrimination pervades the fashion industry
- The fashion industry is missing out on potential revenue
- Sustained structural change is needed
- The industry is segregated
- Leadership needs to accept the situation and change accordingly
Karen Binns, fashion director at Fashion Roundtable, offered the following statement: 'Statistics do not lie. We know from the data that the person of colour spends double, sometimes triple the amount of money on clothes. Why? Because they must. We must. We are constantly the most judged on our appearances, which means we have no choice but to look the part, at all times to represent and to be successful. People of colour will be dismissed, ignored, and disregarded for an equal opportunity. This is business, and if fashion brands continue to ignore this issue of disregarding their biggest consumer they will lose - completely - especially now, that all black owned businesses are on an all time rise. At the end of the day, just do the numbers!'