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Fashion has a serious diversity problem

The global industry has historically struggled with opportunities and pipelines for diverse talent, and only a collective effort can change the trend

Models in Véronique Nichanian’s recent Winter 21 menswear collection. (Instagram/Hermes)
Models in Véronique Nichanian’s recent Winter 21 menswear collection. (Instagram/Hermes) (HT_PRINT)

When it comes to diversity in the fashion industry, a lot of work needs to be done.

That was one of the major findings of a study conducted by the Council of Fashion Designers of America, a not-for-profit trade association founded in 1962 with a membership of 477 of US' foremost womenswear, menswear, jewellery and accessory designers, and fashion-lifestyle company PVH Corp.

Titled "State of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in Fashion", the study, which was released recently, began in 2019 to better understand how the fashion industry can be more diverse, equitable, and inclusive, particularly through the lens of racial equity as it relates to talent acquisition and retention. The research included a survey of over 1,000 working industry professionals across 41 companies, 20 stakeholder interviews, and three focus groups with students and emerging designers during fall 2020. A shared objective was to understand the experiences of employees and prospective talent from underrepresented communities across all industry disciplines and levels.

The study stated that 60% of respondents said their companies had undertaken actions related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. What's more, 80% believe the response is authentic.

“The inclusion and diversity challenges in the fashion industry are real. This important research not only confirms that; the learnings from it will also help guide the work towards positive and lasting change,” said Stefan Larsson, CEO of PVH Corp, in a press release. “We have work to do at PVH, together with our larger industry, we have a collective responsibility to lean in and drive real impact. This is as important as any business strategy and speaks more broadly to who we are as human beings and the impact we can have on society.”

In the study, the CFDA and PVH identified six key areas of opportunity: awareness, access, promotion, advocacy, compensation and belonging.

Addressing these areas provides a framework for companies to quantify their culture’s strengths and opportunities for improvement; provide insight into actionable steps towards a future more reflective of our citizenry; and foster a talent pipeline from underrepresented communities.

“The fashion industry, both in the US and worldwide, has historically struggled with opportunities and pipelines for Black and Brown talent. We need to collectively address and change this,” said CaSandra Diggs, president of the CFDA, in the release.

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