Black History Month has arrived; the annual celebration and awareness of the history, influence and achievements of black people. Black influence within the fashion industry is noteworthy, although the recognition for the work of black designers has not always been widely advocated.
Diversity within the industry has been a hot topic within recent years, fuelled by the power of social media; although the changes have not been sufficient enough. It is simply not enough for diversity measures to be implemented on the runway.
Candace Reels the founder of platform Female Collective, discusses these challenges currently faced in the industry, in more detail in an interview with Who What Wear. “I think we are just now reaching the point where we are seeing more models and celebrities of colour becoming the faces of certain big beauty and fashion brands, which the young Black girl in me is very excited to see, but the adult me wants to see people of colour being the ones making the big decisions at these companies. I want there to be more creative and marketing directors who are Black women.
It’s important to have people of colour in front of and behind the scenes. That’s true inclusivity. You’re not a diverse brand because you have one Black model or a Celebrity representing your brand; you’re a diverse company because you have people from all walks of life, different races, genders, and sexualities working together as a team creating beautiful work.” It is so important for changes to be made across different levels within the industry before a company can label themselves as ‘diverse’ or ‘inclusive.’ During the months of lockdown, it was made apparent that some prominent brands were simply jumping on the bandwagon to support the Black Lives Matter movement, however this support was limited to social media and not reflected within the hierarchical systems within the company. Rihanna can’t be the constant figurehead to incite change, her significant contributions to the fashion and beauty industries have been monumental, however it is time for more figures to arise and truly break the constraints of systematic racism.
Journalist and Public speaker Marjon Carlos supports this concept stating: “In order for diversity to really take hold in fashion, we have to not only allow for new gatekeepers and cultural ambassadors to emerge, but we also have to figure out how to keep them in power. Retention is paramount, and that comes from creating real, equitable workspaces for POCs to shine and thrive, to not feel silenced or siloed or pressured to fix all the problems of racism within the industry themselves.
We need more white allies to be outspoken and supportive and learn when to give up power and when to speak.”