Challenges, Oh YES!
As fashion continues to embrace diversity in 2019 I look back on my experiences wondering what took the business so long to recognize the world is made up of different people. As a person who never accepted roles I was suppose to play in life. Working in fashion presented me with challenges.
For an industry that seems cosmopolitan, it is actually very narrow minded in structural outlook. Once, at a well known brand presentation during Fashion Week, I was told, “in this city, labels will have a person of color as a receptionist or a runway model, but not in management.”
Many times I got the “What are you doing here looks” from door people or “positioned” by security. It is part of the routine. If I am in a good mood, I smile. If I am in a bad mood, I channel Flip Wilson for a quip comment, then a roll of the eyes. I am practicing the 3R’s. Relate. Relax. Release.
The Hard Part
The always present iconic model Naomi Campbell, Edward Enninful as head of Vogue, Virgil Abloh becoming the creative director of Louis Vuitton menswear are positive steps but more should be done. Recognizable faces from a higher world shuttled to VIP suites, then paraded before the media feels easy. Until 2017, the only voice of color in the fashion world was Andre Talley.
This is a business of affinity, a club. If the address on the resume does not contain a certain zip code in Milan, London, Paris, or New York the chances of getting a position are difficult. Fashion has been a business for the privileged class, the Coffee and Cake at the Ritz Carlton Society Set. Few voices from different communities means fewer opinions heard. More of different is good but on all levels not for the sake of press releases trumpeting, “look at us celebrating inclusivity in the 21stcentury because of social media outrage.
I appreciate little steps as well as big steps.