Diversity. It’s one of the buzzwords of 2017. You’ve heard it surrounding body image, with countless beautiful “plus-size” ladies having deservingly successful careers, you’ve heard it in the controversy of Vogue’s all-white 2017 staff photo, and buzzing around Edward Enninful’s assumption of the post of Editor-in-Chief. You’ve heard it at SUBCULTURED, it’s our latest issue theme, you’ve even heard it at the 2017 Victoria’s Secret castings (ethnically diverse as usual, thanks VS, although slightly lacking in body image diversity).
But there have also been voices claiming that this new focus on diversity isn’t the fashion industry realising it must be accountable for representing all kinds of women, but instead itself a fashion trend. It’s “cool” to be diverse, feature the women of colour who are “it-girls” of the moment such as Adwoa Aboah, Chanel Iman and Leomie Anderson. Making these statements can increase a brand’s popularity tenfold as it gains the support of people of colour who thus far have been woefully underrepresented by the fashion and beauty industries. Apparently, much like sex, diversity sells.
A perfect example of this commodification of diversity is L’Oréal’s most recent scandal (apart from testing on animals which is wrong on every account). Earlier this year L’Oreal invited transgender model of colour Munroe Bergdorf to be one of the faces of their diversity campaign. Ironically, when Munroe spoke out encouraging white people to be aware of unconscious racism and systems of white privilege, she was sacked from the job. Promoting diversity is all well and good until someone dares to be vocal about the actual barriers to it.
True diversity is much more than another marketing campaign, and “it-girls” of color, such as Adwoa Aboah, Chanel Iman and Leomie Anderson are much more than 2017’s “it-girls” of colour. They’re hard working models who break barriers and deserve every opportunity given to them, in an ideal world, regardless of skin colour, but in our world, because other people of colour need to see themselves being represented just as much as their white counterparts are.
If we are truly to promote diversity in fashion, we need to acknowledge and speak out about the barriers in its way. Racism, sexism, fatphobia, we’re looking at you, and we know you don’t just disappear because we ignore you. We need to talk about these issues, and we need to ensure that the fire lit under the term “diversity” is kept alight. The December 2017 issue of SUBCULTURED is all about doing this in style.
Text by Katt Skippon
Picture research by Donna Darafshian; featured image from media.them.us.