Diversity Comes To The Fashion Industry

October 14, 2021 ManpowerGroup ManpowerGroup

As conversations about Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) in the workplace continue to happen within organizations in every sector, the fashion industry has not been immune to concerns about the lack of diversity and representation both on the runway and in fashion houses around the world.  

According to the 2021 State of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in Fashion survey by McKinsey & Company: 

  • 50% of employees of color report that a career in the fashion industry is not equally accessible to all qualified candidates, and almost one in four question the meritocracy of opportunities. 
  • Black employees report greater inaccessibility to the fashion industry (68%) vs. white employees (37%). 
  • LGBTQ+ employees report greater inaccessibility to the fashion industry (51% disagree) vs. heterosexual employees (41%). 
  • Black employees report feeling less prepared for their first job search (38% report that they were “not at all equipped”) vs. white employees (19%). 

Inclusivity in Fashion Starts with Diversity of Thought
Seeking to bring change not just to their own business, but to the fashion industry as a whole, Capri Holdings, parent company of iconic brands Michael Kors, Versace and Jimmy Choo, decided to do something about it and created The Capri Holdings Foundation for the Advancement of Diversity in Fashion. The company pledged $20 million to further the foundation’s mission of supporting DE&I throughout the fashion industry. 
 
“We want to diversify the fashion industry, and as we recruit, we most likely recruit from other fashion houses. If we’re looking for a designer, we’re going to look at our competitors. And we look around competitors and we noticed nobody is diverse,” says Semone Bamboat, VP of Global Talent Acquisition and Diversity & Inclusion at Capri Holdings. “It’s not just us, but it’s the industry as a whole. So this foundation was created to improve diversity within fashion, period.” 
 
Opening Doors for Diverse Candidates
Speaking with hosts Roberta Cucchiaro and Dominika Gałusa on Season 2, Episode 13 of the Transform Talent PodcastBamboat explains that one goal of the new foundation is to also open doors for people who might never have the opportunity to get into fashion.  

How do we reach people all over the world that have not even thought about having careers in fashion? Or have had that opportunity to go to a fashion school or even understand that there are other careers within fashion besides, for example, design? There’s finance, IT, there’s so much opportunity within fashion,” Bamboat says. “We can start to bring in candidates that come with this diverse mind of thought but also get to keep them there with all these wonderful, inclusive programs that we’re developing.”  
 
While more diversity in all areas is the goal, Bamboat knows that representation on the runway will get the most attention. 
 
DE&I is not just about ethnicity. There are so many other components with it. You can see by the runway show that happened a few weeks ago that diversity is definitely starting on that catwalk. We have models that are all very different from one another. Not just from an ethnicity standpoint, but from a size perspective,” says Bamboat. “We have a lot of gender-neutral models and items for sale now. It is infusing within the fashion industry. It’s a walk not a race and it’s going to take time. But I most certainly see that the industry, specifically us and all three of our brands are running pretty quickly to get to that place.” 
 
Turn Diversity Into A Business Imperative
Tony Rogers, Senior Consultant at Right Management, also joined the conversation by introducing INCLUDE, Right Management's program that helps leaders incorporate DE&I in their strategy, and discussed why more organizations should embrace diversity as a smart business practice to bring out the best in their employees. 
 
Creatively emerges when we feel safe. And we really don’t bring in our best creativity unless we are feeling psychologically safe. This whole journey around this landscape is how do we create what we call psychological safety, so people bring in their best selves. That could be tied to ethnicity, culture, background, and yet also it could be what is uniquely inside of me, the way that I think, my cognitive style,” Rogers says. “We’re seeing more and more focus on neurodiversity and how people learn differently. Skills that are not normative can be valuable strengths. We are just growing so rapidly in the way we view our world and what people can do. It’s truly exciting.” 
 
To hear more from Bamboat and Rogers as they go even further in discussing DE&I efforts, what it means for those within the fashion industry, and how organizations of all shapes and sizes can adopt similar practices, listen to The Transform Talent Podcast episode “Inclusivity in Fashion Starts with Diversity of Thought” here or wherever you get your podcasts. 

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