Fashion has a very prominent place in the culture of society. Fashion is an outward expression of internal emotion and history and has a responsibility to source inspiration responsibility and contribute to the cultures it sources from. We have seen several missteps by fashion brands with black culture in particular for decades while many brands pull inspiration from black culture in terms of fit, material, and design. In the wake of protest and civil unrest in response to police brutality and the murder of unarmed black people, many fashion brands have come out in support of black culture with a commitment to do better. Where do they start?
First, it is important to take inventory of current practice to assess how large the problems are and where they specifically reside within the business and how those problems are perceived outside of the business. Doing an equity audit is important.
A simple metric to look at is that of representation. If we are talking about black culture specifically and black culture makes up 13% of the United States based on the most recent census data the question is whether black employees at all levels are represented by at least that margin.
Assessing what retention of black employees looks like for a fashion brand can tell the brand a lot about its work environment. If retention is low there may be microaggressions or racist practices causing the flight of black employees. The goal of fashion brands ought to be an environment where diversity and inclusion are paramount because it is morally right that everyone has opportunity and space. Diversity and inclusion have proven to increase revenue and profit (McKinsey, 2019).
Fashion brands need to assess employee on-boarding, training, and development for anti-racism efforts toward social justice. Are policies and procedures in place to protect employees who stand up and call out mistreatment? After incidents of racism or prejudice brands need to have options for solutions. Assessing what is in place is critical. Auditing the way people feel about working for the business is important.
Mission & Vision
It is critical that the virtue signaling of fashion brands move beyond diversity toward equity for their employees, customers, partners, and audiences. The mission and vision of a company both illustrate how the company feels about the people it serves.
Fashion brands are driven by creativity in the process of developing pieces, lines, and campaigns. We have seen many brands step into backlash due to the lack of soundness in their creative process. The fallout from these types of failures impact brand image, attitudes toward the brand, and purchase intention (Maslikhan, 2019).
Fashion brands across the world are paying more attention to their brand's position in terms of society and the environment. Encouraging these brands to stay the course is beneficial for everyone involved. The goal is to reach a point where brands respect the cultures it is inspired by and provides opportunities to increase the creativity and authenticity of its product as well as expand its customer base.