On March 21st, it was the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, initiated in commemoration of the day in Sharpeville, South Africa, when police opened fire and killed 69 people during a peaceful demonstration against the pass laws imposed by apartheid. In proclaiming this international day in 1966, the United Nations committed the international community to increasing efforts to combat racial discrimination.
In recent years, the fight against racial discrimination has gained momentum, especially with the Black Lives Matter movement, which has created a strong awareness. One might think that fashion plays a strong role in this fight for inclusiveness but, the industry has not changed that much. According to a UK report published by Fashion Roundtable and the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Fashion and Textiles, Afro descendant people working in the fashion industry would still face a lot of discrimination. Of those interviewed for the study, 68% reported experiencing or witnessing discrimination in fashion companies. There is also a greater and longer workload for racialized people, which can sometimes push them to freelance away from traditional industry positions.
This major problem is found in all countries of the world but mostly in Western countries, KW, a student in our Bachelor Fashion Marketing program and originally from India, gave us her opinion on inclusiveness in fashion today: “it’s better than before, fortunately, but there is still a lot of discrimination outside of the runway, with photographers who don’t know how to edit photos of models of color. And there are stylists/hairstylists who work on Fashion Week who are not aware of certain cultural appropriations when it comes to hairstyles like on the Fall/Winter 2020 Comme des Garçons show for example.”
Today, fashion is trying to make itself more inclusive, especially by the appearance of more and more racialized models on the catwalks and in advertising campaigns, but it is not yet a generalization. Brands need to implement concrete actions with more transparent communication on salaries, a greater diversity in hiring and they must facilitate the integration of people of color in the fashion industry to give equal opportunities to all. Fashion must place creativity as a vector of inclusivity.
IFA Paris is an international fashion school that aims to give everyone a chance without discrimination. It is important for the school that a range of different origins are represented on the catwalks of its student collections, and that no distinction is made in terms of gender, age, ethnicity, or disability. As part of its commitment to inclusiveness, IFA Paris has partnered with the United Nations Office of Migration in the Western Balkans and launched a scholarship to give talented migrants transiting through the IOM center in Sarajevo a chance to study. Equality in education and employment in fashion is still not achieved, fashion actors must redouble their efforts to advance inclusion.