The journey towards inclusion in the fashion world has been an intriguing narrative, a mirror reflecting society’s evolving values, and now, more than ever, showcasing a broader spectrum of humanity, celebrating diverse body types, different ethnicities and genders.

Historically, high fashion has often been associated with exclusivity, catering primarily to the elite and privileged classes. The exclusive salons of early 20th-century Paris, frequented by aristocrats and socialites, set the tone for fashion as an emblem of status and prestige. However, even within these confines, there were whispers of rebellion and subversion.

For example, the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s witnessed a flourishing of African-American culture and art, with figures like Josephine Baker captivating audiences with their bold and innovative fashion choices, challenging racial stereotypes and paving the way for greater diversity in the industry. Over the decades, the civil rights movement, feminism, and LGBTQ+ activism have each left indelible imprints on fashion, pushing boundaries and demanding representation for marginalised communities. The contemporary push towards inclusion in fashion is then not merely a recent phenomenon but rather the culmination of a long and storied history of resistance, resilience, and redefinition.

In contemporary times, the fashion industry finds itself amidst an unprecedented transformation, marked by a growing awareness of the importance of inclusion and diversity. This metamorphosis is not merely superficial; rather, it reflects a profound socio-economic shift that penetrates the very essence of the luxury sector. With a discerning eye, tangible signs of this evolution can be observed across all facets of the fashion industry, from the catwalks of fashion shows to advertising communication and hiring policies of fashion houses.

Fashion brands are actively diversifying their advertising campaigns, recognizing the power of representation. The Good Trade, for instance, highlights the importance of featuring a range of ethnicities, body types, and abilities in marketing materials. While progress has been made, there’s still room for improvement, especially in terms of broader representation across various spectrums of identity.

Catwalks have become vibrant arenas celebrating diversity. Sudanese-Australian model Adut Akech Bior made history as the second model of colour to close Chanel’s haute couture show, symbolising a significant shift in the industry’s approach to inclusivity. Similarly, Indira Scott’s appearance with dreadlocks on the Dior runway challenged conventional beauty standards, embracing and celebrating cultural diversity.

The industry is also opening up to emerging designers from diverse backgrounds. Virgil Abloh’s ground-breaking appointment as Artistic Director of Menswear at Louis Vuitton and Edward Enninful’s historic role as Editor-In-Chief at British Vogue are prime examples of breaking traditional barriers and ushering in a new era of inclusivity.

Inclusion isn’t just a moral imperative; it’s also economically advantageous. Brands that champion diversity often enjoy increased market share and customer loyalty. According to a study by McKinsey & Company, companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians, highlighting the tangible benefits of inclusive practices.

Today’s consumers, particularly millennials and Gen Z, demand authenticity and representation from the brands they support. They wield their spending power to endorse brands that reflect their values, prompting a surge in inclusive marketing campaigns and product lines that cater to diverse demographics.

The global influence on fashion inclusion is undeniable. Designers from non-Western cultures are leaving enduring marks on the luxury market, infusing it with fresh perspectives and challenging Western-centric beauty standards, fostering a more inclusive and diverse industry landscape.

Despite the progress made, the fashion industry still faces criticism for performative activism and tokenism. True inclusion goes beyond the superficial; it entails ensuring that diverse voices are not only represented but also heard and valued at every level, from internships to executive boards.

Looking towards the future, technology is poised to play an even more pivotal role in advancing inclusion in fashion further. Innovative partnerships between fashion tech companies like 3DLOOK and Mive are revolutionising garment design and tailoring processes. By leveraging technology to create size-inclusive clothing, fashion is breaking down barriers and democratising access to style, ensuring that everyone feels represented and catered to.
Advances such as 3D body scanning and virtual try-on apps promise to offer a more personalised and inclusive shopping experience for consumers of all backgrounds and body types. Moreover, as we move forward, sustainability and ethical practices are likely to intertwine with inclusivity, guiding fashion towards a more equitable and socially responsible future.

In conclusion, inclusion in fashion isn’t just a fleeting trend; it represents a fundamental shift towards a more equitable and representative industry. By embracing diversity, fashion isn’t just redefining beauty standards but also reshaping societal norms and perceptions. As the industry continues to evolve, one thing remains clear: fashion is for everyone, and true luxury lies in inclusivity.

Leave a Reply