All good things must come to an end. During lockdown, Fashion Roundtable’s webinars have been a permanent fixture in the diary every Friday at 2pm. Each week, I could rely on the fact I would be enriched with knowledge by a stellar line up of speakers and a hot topic spearheaded by Fashion Roundtable’s CEO, Tamara Cincik.
Now we are easing out of lockdown and into a new normal, the tide must change for everyone to rest and regroup from the last few months and pause. Before Fashion Roundtable turns off its audio, this week’s topic was one of the most important of all— ARE YOU REPRESENTED?
This has long been an important topic for Fashion Roundtable. They have been working with the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Textiles & Fashion (APPG) to pull together a Representation & Inclusion in Fashion policy paper to provide a vital voice, platform and opportunity to represent all within the fashion industry.
To give you a some context; ‘Government data shows that 9% of people employed in the design and designer fashion sub-sector are from working-class backgrounds. Meanwhile the disability pay gap averages at £2,730 a year - a significant difference considering that on average, disabled people face extra costs of £583 a month related to their impairment or condition. Non-binary remains not legally recognised. Ethnic diversity in the fashion industry is currently at 9%, and data provided by the UK government suggested that the median hourly pay for white people was 10p higher than the average hourly pay for people from most ethnic groups combined.’
This week’s webinar pulled together a panel who understand how the industry needs to open up— they shared their personal experiences and advice on how fashion should change for the better.
Fashion Director, Karen Binns took the lead saying ‘This is the year for everyone and everyone to be pulled up on all the things that have been going wrong for so many years. Fashion has gotten away with murder for along time, and it has to stop!’
The Fashion Industry needs to recognise that things need to be fairer and more inclusive on every level. We have seen the #BlackLiveMatter movement come rightly into its own, the industry reaction is to then ‘represent’ by only having black models in their magazines and catwalk shows for that month. It’s not about divide and conquer and giving them that space this month, it’s about being equal. Full stop. Everyone needs to be represented— the industry is trying to get away with it by making everyone black today and going back to normal tomorrow. Everyone, across the board, needs to be included and if a stand isn’t made now, then it's never going to happen.
Eden Loweth, Designer and Creative Director of Art School a non-binary, queer-luxury fashion label, says there is a massive problem with the industry seeing inclusivity as a performative thing. Drawing from his own personal experience with his business stating that, while he has one of the most diverse shows on the calendar globally, he too has been pulled up on inclusivity when it came to casting shows. It’s become a tick box exercise to how many black people you should have. In reality that’s not how it works.
Has the industry lost touch when it comes to diversity and inclusion? It’s not just fallen short of race, it’s become a class issue too. We are seeing the ‘popular’ designers forever being put on their pedestal, collecting awards and cash prizes when they already have a privilege background. Those who don’t have that luxury juggle many different hats to just keep business afloat and their passion alive.
Stylist, Costume Designer & Consultant, Cynthia Lawrence John, talked openly about her career journey. She explained how the fashion industry has always been (but more so in the past) a place where black people can come to the party, but cannot come through that door of opportunity. Not one to take “no” for an answer Cynthia would always find another way to push through to the top with one particular win by co-finding Volt Magazine which ran for 15 years.
This is when we see the fashion industry putting people into boxes and if you don’t fit into that particular box or trend for that season then you may as well forget the career path you want to take. I’ve seen it myself, when someone takes a dislike to you be it, stylist, editors, creative they will easily kick you to the curb for not being on their side or no longer flavour of the month. Cynthia raises the point that when a door does open to black people, one goes through, they then have to take the whole weight of change onto their shoulders and fix the culture in one day. How is that even possible or reasonable?
This is why the ‘Representation & Inclusion in Fashion’ paper is so important to push through. Everyone is equal, everyone should have the same amount of work ethic and stability.
There is strength in community and we need to come together, share our experiences, and pull our resources together to create the change we want to see within the fashion industry.
This may be the last webinar, but thankfully Fashion Roundtable hasn’t left us completely! They are now hosting a LIVE weekly News Roundup every Monday via IGTV, bringing the narrative between politics and fashion to a wider audience.
If you’d like to watch the Webinar in full, please click HERE.
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