Fashion, in general, is a big part of the lives of everyone through clothes, accessories, and other items we all subconsciously use on a daily basis. However, the industry isn’t as sparkly as the sequins many designer use. Ideally, brands should preach inclusivity for all races, genders, sexes, and body types, and during times of crisis, it is easy to forget about the history of many fashion labels if they come out in solidarity with the people of color they have hurt and offended in the past.
By simply posting a black square and a couple sentences in support for BLM, many of us are overlooking the workplace inequality for BIPOC’s in these companies. I know I have definitely made this mistake recently, and it is definitely quite an easy mistake to make if you don’t have the right knowledge. Many brands have recently had employees speak out on their personal discriminatory experiences.
Zimmerman employees openly made racist remarks on a black model’s hair only for the model to get fired while defending herself. Anthropologie workers were given a code word to communicate when a black or brown person entered the store. This goes out to so many other brands on the market. In fact, racism has a home in the fast-fashion industry. Already lacking in sustainability and fabric quality, fast-fashion brands thrive on the suffering of BIPOC. These employees are treated unfairly in factories, places of design, and at corporate offices. Farther than the workplace, the industry as a whole brainwashes us to feel “pretty” only at a certain standard.
Society has normalized euro-centricity and idealized fair skin in fashion since quite early in time. From early 18th century Europe where pale white makeup was applied to increase fairness, there have always been various terribly unattainable standards in the fashion world that promote exclusion and discrimination over bonding and positivity. Further, these standards have created body dysmorphia and regulated colorism in our lives. The problem is the media’s constant portrayal of these standards allows us to think it is ok; IT ISNT. We shouldn’t have to rake through an Instagram feed of a fashion house only to find one black or brown model.
It goes even further than the stereotypes around beauty that the industry sets. It amazes me that the fashion community has created an environment where cultures are “trendy” and where cultural appropriation is overlooked. Traditionally black hairstyles have been renamed and adapted by so many people including celebrities such as the Kardashians, Lilly Singh, and Nikita Dragun with no regard for the symbolism and oppression built into something as simple as hair for African American people in this country. Oriental patterns and outfit styles have been made into a trend all over the world without any importance given to the heritage behind the dress, top, or skirt being bought. And if this isn’t bad enough, brands like Dolce and Gabbana have deemed it acceptable to make advertisements and post clips openly enforcing racist Asian stereotypes in the media. After hearing about this, I vowed not to ever buy D&G.
Even when brands are releasing new collection items, there is insensitivity to the feelings that their collection can engender within a minority group. Moncler is an icon in the world of parkas and coats; I have definitely taken some time to stare at their collections and tried on a couple of overpriced shiny jackets. This brand without thinking of backlash created a shiny black jacket with a black face patch. Obviously, people were offended and viewed this as Black Face which is completely justified. This isn’t the only case. Gucci, the well-known iconic fashion house, has even gotten into a scandal regarding a turtleneck that proved to portray Black Face. These brands are in the wrong. They need to understand how their products are going to be received by the public. They have no right to be ignorant because their ignorance hurts and offends millions of people across the world.
I do want to give credit to some brands and retailers that have taken steps to create a more diverse and inclusive environment for their employees. Alice and Olivia, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Stuart Weitzman have all spoken on Equity and Inclusion mandatory training for a better workplace. It is one thing for a brand to post a black square in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, but without any initiative it is useless, and I commend and respect any brands that are taking the time and putting in the effort to change the ingrained racism in fashion.