Inclusion and diversity: these are two of the main issues at the center of debate in the fashion world. For many years, indeed, the fashion industry has been criticized for its lack of diversity, especially in the types of bodies shown on runways and billboards. Often, we find ourselves wondering: “Is this industry really becoming more diverse and inclusive or is it just a marketing strategy?"
Diversity in the fashion system has long been talked about. In 2017 a lengthy reflection on the topic appeared in Business of Fashion, celebrating how and how much inclusivity was shown that season on the runways, animated by non-stereotypical models. Problem solved? Evidently not since we are still here debating the problem.
Sure, it is impossible to deny that some progress has been made. But to effectively answer the question, it is necessary to analyse the presence of different cultures, ages, genders, physical abilities, and sizes within the multitude of companies and brands, starting with the castings and ending with the head offices and the people working within them.
In this case, Savage x Fenty is considered one of the brands that addresses this issue of diversity and inclusivity in the fashion industry in the best way. The runways, which are considered real shows, even broadcasted on Amazon Prime Video, include trans models, plus-size models and some with amputated limbs. All this reinforces the philosophy of body positivity and the image of women and self confidence they each possess. However, at the most prominent fashion shows of New York, London, Milan and Paris, the landscape looks like this: one plus-size model and one middle-size model were cast among a sea of size-zero models.
The runways are starting to be more diverse when it comes to race and gender (since gender binaries no longer apply in fashion), but when it comes to size, age and abilities - aside from a few notable outliers - the bodies on display were uniformly skinny and tall, and the faces unlined.
There is not one body, there are many bodies, which contribute to making us who we are. Disability must also be represented, and a disabled person must also be able to feel represented in the world of fashion, with clothing created for specific needs. Do not think we are talking about a narrow niche. According to data from the World Health Organization, 15% of the world's population lives with some form of disability, which is the largest minority in the world. There are so many other minorities who are not fully represented by the fashion industry.
The lack of diversity and inclusivity is undoubtedly one of the biggest problems in fashion. It may seem that the industry has become more diverse over the years, but it is far from being inclusive. Acknowledged that, what can fashion do to be more inclusive? People want to be seen, heard, and most of all, represented. An authentic understanding of what representation truly means, and how it relates to the struggle for inclusion and diversity, is most likely what fashion can do to keep its promises.
Written by Paige Trimbly