The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) released a report on Monday that examines the state of inclusion and diversity in the fashion industry. While diversity—or a lack thereof—has been a topic increasingly discussed and promoted, when it comes to real change, progress has been stagnant.
Released in conjunction with PVH Corp., the conglomerate that owns brands like Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger, the report, titled “Insider/Outsider,” offers insight into how leadership in fashion often leaves out racial minorities, the LGBTQ+ community, and women. While it doesn’t necessarily include specific actionable objectives, Steven Kolb, the CFDA’s chief executive, said in the report, “It’s our hope from this briefing that we can hold American fashion accountable to be inclusive and diverse.”
According to the document, “Insiders possess more systemic power but they have less awareness of the dynamic and their impact as insiders. Outsiders have more awareness of the dynamic but can find it challenging to assert influence and create change.” Here are some of the main insights from CFDA’s report on insider-outsider dynamics in fashion.
1. There is a difference between inclusion and diversity. “If diversity is the thread, then inclusion is the needle,” the report says. Diversity is defined as, “the mix, simply a measure of difference,” and inclusion is described as, “a climate in which diverse individuals come together to form a collective whole, enabling and empowering individuals to make contributions consistent with their beliefs and backgrounds.”
For companies to be truly welcoming to “outsider” groups—groups that are often forced to “fit into/assimilate into the norms”—diversity without inclusion isn’t enough.
2. Sixty-two percent of top-level fashion executives rated their workplace a 3 out of 5 for inclusivity. A survey given to 50 industry execs at over 30 companies revealed that the majority of businesses don’t rate themselves favorably when it comes to inclusivity and diversity. Thirty-six percent of respondents rated their organization an average score of 3 out of 5 “when evaluating the extent to which diverse groups feel able to make their fullest contribution.”
3. “Just getting started,” “limited,” and “late” were among the top words associated with the state of diversity in fashion. Survey participants were asked to choose three words they most closely associated with diversity in fashion, and their choices were telling. In addition to the words previously mentioned, “uneven,” “evolving,” and “underrepresented” were also included.
Shanel Campbell, a womenswear designer who’s dressed Solange Knowles and Issa Rae, had an optimistic outlook for change in fashion.
“Diversity and inclusion in fashion is shifting in a more positive and progressive way,” she said in the report. “Although the rate has been slow, I can still appreciate the fashion industry’s acknowledgment for change and the necessity of inclusion. I have been seeing a more diverse range of people behind the scenes and within positions of power that then can inform critical decisions around creating diverse narratives and visuals throughout fashion.”
So what’s next?
While these insights were useful, the most important part is what comes next. In the report, CFDA said they will focus on “peer-to-peer mentorship, business networking opportunities, educational programming, and leadership skill set training.”
PVH says they will “enhance” their education and awareness programs while “amplifying” their I&D Councils and Business Resources Groups: “We will continue to collaborate with external partners to help foster a collectively inclusive and diverse environment in our own workplace and across the industry.”