Representation & Inclusion In The Fashion Industry

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Diversity has become an imperative to future-proof fashion businesses. It is a deciding feature in a company’s ability to attract and retain talent, explore different markets and design innovative products and solutions. In a time of digital, technological and sustainable transformation, diversity and inclusivity at the management level are essential to design solutions that will enable fashion business to progress. To create innovation and change in the industry, fashion needs to take into consideration the diversity of different genders, race and ethnicity, varying religious beliefs, political convictions, disability, sexual orientation and culture. Just how important diversity is for fostering innovation is shown by a recent study (2018) by the Boston Consulting Group, which found firms with a more diverse management team generate 19% higher revenue derived from innovation, compared to firms with lower diversity rates. Furthermore, companies that actively seek gender diversity in their executive teams have stronger competitiveness, are 21% more likely to have above-average profitability and 27% more likely to create better long-term value than their peers. Factors that prove advantageous for companies embracing diversity, on different levels include an ability to gain better business perspectives of the needs of their customers, how products could be improved and company wellbeing. Non-binary remains not legally recognised as a gender, while disability inclusion levels within the sector are minimal, with the work of Zebedee Management leading the way across casting inclusion, there remain structural barriers to a fashion business that is inclusive and offering diversity in career promotion opportunities.

Furthermore, fashion needs to be aware that their future workforce, millennials and Gen-Z are very invested in diversity and inclusivity. By 2025, 75% of the global workforce will be made up of millennials, and these future leaders and employees see diversity as a key part of the company culture. 

The fashion industry is operating today beyond national boundaries, employing and serving customers globally, fashion companies need to establish high standards of culturally appropriate imagery and media. However, many fashion campaigns have been slow to adopt this viewpoint, with multiple faux pas in the past year causing consumer backlash, harming company reputation and causing media furore. After accusations of running a culturally insensitive campaign, Dolce & Gabbana saw a 2% fall in the total turnover from their Asia-Pacific market. To protect themselves from repeating this mistake, fashion businesses need to not only champion diversity but also inclusivity in their company culture. Oftentimes these words are used interchangeably but companies need to understand that bringing the right people in the room is not enough, they need to be empowered to speak up and be part of the decision-making process when it comes to everything from design to fashion media and campaigns and be truly embedded in the business practice. Clearly there are lots to be done and our research being led by Fashion Roundtable’s Dr Royce Mahawatte will showcase issues and evidence solutions.

Aim 

To understand discrimination and exclusion within the fashion industry, with consideration of different aspects of identity:

  • Whiteness and non-whiteness

  • Gender identity and expression

  • Mental and physical abilities

  • Religious faith and expression

  • Age

  • Body image

  • Socio-economic status and identity

To propose corporate and government policy recommendations to address discrimination and exclusion in the industry which will generate a more inclusive sector and add value to the fashion industry.


Content

The report will gather qualitative data by collecting written and spoken evidence to inform policy recommendations. The focus of the report is government policies, but recommendations will also include corporate policies.

Written data: will be collected with a ‘public call for evidence’, anyone who works in the fashion industry or is a consumer of goods and services provided by the fashion industry is eligible to submit evidence. To submit written evidence, people will be required to fill out a questionnaire and submit statements about their experience in and with the industry.

Interview data: will be collected via interview panels at the Houses of Parliament, which will take evidence from a selected group of industry professionals. The panels will be led by the Advisory Committee and chaired by Fashion Roundtable.

Interview Panels:

  • Fashion Education

  • Students and Designers

  • Creatives and Manufacturing

  • Marketing and Advertising

  • Modelling, Casting, Agents

  •  Consumers

Questions will be drafted with the consideration of three themes, which will also guide the paper:

  1. Development: questions about progression, support and education

  2. Strategy: questions about decisions, management, and implementation of ideas

  3. Representation: questions about what the consumer sees and identifies with, ‘are you represented?’

Information will be anonymised.


Use of research

The data gathered will be categorised to describe what different types of exclusions and barriers are created by the fashion industry. From the information gathered, policy experts in the Advisory Committee will assess potential government and corporate policies to address these exclusions.

The Paper will be presented to Parliamentarians and industry professionals with activations operating with trusted partners across 2020.

#areyourepresented

 

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