Diversity & inclusivity in the fashion industry: Whose voices are missing?

If you look at the vast majority of clothing retailer window displays and websites, or even lists of bloggers to follow, you’ll see that the people depicted are predominantly white, able-bodied, thin/standard-size, and cisgender. 

Here are just some of the many reasons why this is a problem.

  • Representation matters. So many children grow up never seeing themselves represented by the media or fashion industry, told they need to look a certain way to be accepted by society. 
  • Racism is built into many fashion decisions. As a girl, I look ballet lessons, and I remember how the “ballet pink” tights and shoes are that colour to help “blend in” with someone’s skin tone. But of course, they only blend in with your skin tone if you’re white. We also had to purchase “second skins” which were basically nude-coloured bodysuits to wear under costumes. Except, again, they were only “nude-coloured” if you’re white. From what I’ve heard, things have changed since that time, but I’m sure it’s nowhere near how it should be. Same goes with “nude” coloured bras and undergarments for the general population.
  • In terms of online shopping, as those such as Aja Barber have pointed out, colours look different on different skin tones. Customers should be able to understand how a garment will look on them by seeing a model who looks like them.
  • Who are the models that we see supposed to be portraying, anyway? According to recent estimations, “Twenty years ago, the average model weighed 8% less than the average woman. Today, the average model weighs 23% less than the average woman.” Furthermore, fashion in larger sizes is much harder to find, let alone ethical fashion in larger sizes.

What are the solutions?

  • Support ethical companies that portray diversity. When you see that a company or publication is failing in this area, write to them and tell them.
  • Support ethical companies that are owned by BIPOC when possible.

Selected references and further reading


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