It seems that every time a discussion of fashion inclusion and diversity begins, the focus is centered only on the models featured in the runways, in ad campaigns, magazine covers, and Instagram promotions. And yes, this is an incredibly important area of fashion that needs more diversity and inclusion; people need to be able to see models of all races, sizes, ages, and ethnicities promoting fashion brands’ products so that everyone is represented. But issues with fashion inclusion don’t exist solely on the outward facing parts of the industry. Lack of diversity is a much deeper issue that stems from a much larger system of inequality. Of course, this pertains to almost every single workplace and area of society, but lack of inclusivity within corporations is incredibly common within fashion industries.
As with diversity in models and the outward-facing areas of fashion brands, diversity and inclusion within corporate structures is getting better, but its still a problem area for most brands. And it can lead to major issues, particularly in marketing and public relations. When companies don’t have a diverse set of individuals working behind the scenes, important voices and perspectives are not being heard and giving input on the information and designs that a company is putting out. There have been numerous occasions in which brands have released articles of clothing or ad campaigns that have received immediate backlash because of their racist or culturally insensitive nature. In 2018, H&M was hit with immense backlash over clear racism after their release of a sweatshirt with the words “coolest monkey in the jungle” featured on a black child. This terrible decision was in large part due to H&M being a Swedish company in which almost every citizen is white. Had the brand expanded their workforce to include a more diverse group of people, it is likely that this problem in marketing would have been brought up in discussions and the promotion would have not been released to the public. Another major scandal erupting at the end of 2018 when Dolce & Gabbana received incredible hate for their release of an advertisement video featuring an Asian woman using chopsticks to try and eat spaghetti, pizza, and a cannoli. People, particularly Chinese consumers, were enraged by the blatant racism and stereotypical portrayal provided by Dolce & Gabbana. As a result, D&G lost a large source of their revenue, as the Asian market is one of their largest in the world. It is more than likely that this advertisement would not have been released and Dolce & Gabbana would not have had their reputation and sales suffer in the way that they did, had their marketing team been more diverse and culturally aware of how that advertisement would appear to consumers. But because the company has such little diversity and inclusion within their employees, no one was there to say, “Hey! This ad is racist. We shouldn’t release this to the public. It’s not funny or enticing, it’s insensitive and degrading.” I’m sure they lost many customers who would’ve otherwise continued to purchase their clothing, and it really shows how one error can result in massive problems. Here’s to hoping D&G, as well as every other fashion house and brand, recognizes that this one error that leads to their potential downfall, can easily be avoided by diversifying their workforce and allowing voices from all cultures be heard and valued.