4 Ways We Know Systemic Racism is Real in The Fashion Industry

How do we, as an industry, go beyond just posting a black square on Instagram in order to stop racism? With the Black Lives Matter movement (finally) hitting the world by storm again this week, it made us do some reflecting of our own and the industry we’re in. 

The fashion industry has benefited from Black culture from the beginning; the stolen trends and appropriation of hairstyles all the while lacking in representation. 

And unfortunately, systemic racism is rife in the fashion industry. Inspired by this article and statement on systematic racism by Ben & Jerry’s, we dove into specific issues facing the fashion industry and tangible changes that you can hold brands you shop at, consume or follow accountable for. 

1. Limited Use of Black Models in Campaigns

We recommend taking a look at your favorite brands’ websites and campaigns. Do they feature people of color prominently or are they nowhere to be seen on the glossy feeds?

At Insyze, we’ve noticed that the prominence of black models is severely lacking on a number of brands and it’s something we feel strongly has to change in order to tackle systemic racism in society. 

But while planning our own shoots for some future projects, we’ve been looking to model agencies to find black and indigenous plus size models that we can work with… and guess what; there’s hardly any we can find at the top model agencies that come up in our Google searches. 

There are however, an overwhelming amount of skinny white models. 

If a brand has limited resources and is limited by the availability of professional models at agencies, how can we fix this issue so that it’s easier for both POC to be represented and also for brands to make inclusive choices?

While the fashion world is in the process of adding more color to the runway, it is still not enough.  After Spring 2019 Fashion Week in New York, 32.5% of models were people of color, which was a slight increase from Spring 2018. Rewind back to Spring 2015 and that number was half - 17%. (The Fashion Spot

Notoriously, fashion week showcases thin, white women and that stops now! We know that is not the average body by any means, so let’s start crushing those unrealistic ideals?!

2. Lack of Color on Brands’ Social Channels

As mentioned above, there is a lack of representation in the fashion industry at the core, but that does not mean it is impossible to showcase color on your feed - especially if your customers are posting content about you and wearing your clothes.

User generated content is the easiest way a brand can ensure they’re representing people of color on social media and making their feed more inclusive.

Some brands have been called out this past weekend for staying silent on the issue of Black Lives Matter. Their silence is deafening. 

We recommend you checking out the social channels of brands you follow, or don’t, to hold them accountable and start calling them out!

I am a white person writing this and I implore everyone to do this. If you are white and reading this, you can use your white privilege to help fight this systemic racism. 

But there’s more you can do as well.

When you see a post with a black person, hit that Like button. Leave a comment. Show the brand that when they represent POC that you are MORE engaged. 

I promise you their social media team will take note.

3. Appropriation of Black Culture in Fashion

Raise your hand if you would participate in or support a friend of yours to participate in blackface. 

*Silence*

...NO ONE would. So how the hell did it get on the runway in Gucci’s Autumn/Winter Collection in 2018?

The Balaclava Jumper, which featured a neck that could cover part of the face in black with large lips, received a major backlash around the world resulting in Gucci removing the jumper from its online and physical stores.

Just think about how many people that design would have to be approved by before hitting the runway? Well, when you have a look at the Executive Committee of Kering Group (Gucci’s parent company) there is not one person of color. 

Another instance, also in 2018, H&M released an image on its site of a black child model wearing a hoodie with “coolest monkey in the jungle” written across the front.  The image quickly gained criticism from the use of a monkey and a black child, an animal that in the past, and now, has been used as a racial slur for the black community.  

Again, while H&M may not have meant any harm from it, the fact they went ahead with this product shows how deep rooted systemic racism truly is. 

Can’t believe this got the green light and who would ok that? I’ll give you a hint, it’s worth checking out H&M Group’s Board of Directors as well. 

This is where “systemic racism” comes into play. Systemic racism refers to the lack of diversity where the ideas and systems are created. If the people making the decisions are predominantly white, the entire organization is stemming from that.  You can read More Examples of Systemic Racism, which dives into the education system and hiring process. 

For this, we ask you for transparency in large corporations you follow, like or buy from.  If their executive board shows no color, ask them WHY! Hold them accountable!

4. Skin Tone of Makeup, or Lack Thereof

Remember before Rihanna chewed up the old makeup industry in 2017 and spit out the most inclusive brand, Fenty Beauty? We do! She dropped a 40 shade (later expanded to 50) foundation range. FIFTY! 

Goodbye were the days of having to bring your own foundation so you could be matched by a makeup artist - how did we as a society let that go on for so long?

This launched into changing the makeup industry for the better.  A year later, Mac Cosmetics expanded their MAC Studio Fix Fluid Foundation SPF 15 to 60 shades - from “Light-Medium Peachy to “Dark Espresso Rosy.”

There is no excuse to not have an all inclusive color range in a makeup brand so make sure you’re checking on brands you use. 

We as a society are always learning. 

Seeing all of the brands and people participate this past week in the #BlackLivesMatter movement has been amazing. But now we need to continue this fire. 

We all need to hold each other accountable from this day forward.  Keep calling racism out. 

The Insyze team has made an effort to highlight black bloggers and will focus on expanding to more black brands.  The fashion world has benefitted from black women and men for hundreds of years and it is important they are being represented every day. 

We also want to use our platform to encourage you to VOTE if you want to see change and progress. 

For more resources, check out these links: