The Insider/Outsider concept, derived from the CFDA Diversity Report
“If diversity is the thread, then inclusion is the needle. “
On Monday, Business of Fashion reported the release of The Council of Fashion Designers Association’ Diversity Report entitled The Insider-/Outsider: Inclusion & Diversity in the American Fashion Industry. The CFDA teamed up with PVH with an aim to identify the issues and address needs to convert awareness into action and hold American fashion accountable to be inclusive and diverse.
A favorite quote from this report states, ‘if diversity is the thread, then inclusion is the needle.’ So often, companies used these terms interchangeably with the assumption the denotation is the same. After personally dissecting the report, it was warming to find the report addressing simply having a motley array of employees is meaningless if the company isn’t making an effort to ensure everyone has a collective impact on the betterment of the business. The state of empowering all employees to contribute their ideas and perspective just naturally creates a more conducive work environment, resulting in a successful business. Why is this such a difficult concept to grasp for the fashion industry? Why are companies solely seeing the state of diversity as a trending topic?
Inclusion and Diversity should go beyond what we see on the covers of magazines and the closing of runway shows; it should be more than a marketing ploy. It should include the talent casted to produce a photo shoot, the assistants, the buyers, the marketers, the seniors and directors - all of these roles call for a need for inclusion for the sake of the business structure. Inclusion behind the marketing assets eliminates tone-deaf occurrences, similar to Prada’s, hairstylist horror stories with African descent models on set, or ashy foundation swatches.
The Insider/Outsider concept the CFDA x PVH report acknowledges the unconscious bias of an industry as well as the uneven dynamic of power. In the report, it recognizes Insiders (those fitting the norms of a culture and benefiting from the unconscious bias) as having more systemic power yet lacks awareness in their power. Simultaneously, it recognizes Outsiders (those who assimilate/adapt to norms are are negatively impacted by the unconscious bias) are usually more self-aware yet they find it difficult to assert their influence; leaving the Outsider to feel invaluable. This imbalance of these roles reflect heavily on the state of a business; showing a lack of inclusive opportunity for all employees. With the release of this report, let’s hope the fashion industry will hold each other accountable for their lack of recognition and take initiative to create inclusive and diverse environments where there is a collective opportunity for all parties to get their perspectives heard.
I wanted to take a moment to gloss over the release of this Diversity Report because I think timing is everything. While I would love to go into depth on my notions and opinions on the state of diversity, I’d rather wait to discuss with the Luxy Haus audience (old and new) on this Saturday with my cohost Kiara Brown during our #FashionInColor segment. Come out Saturday to Kinfolk 90 - let’s talk about this. Talk begins promptly at 7pm EST.