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The British fashion industry failed an inclusivity test

By Don-Alvin Adegeest

12 Aug 2021

Fashion

Image: Inclusivity via Pexels

There is cause for alarm in the British fashion industry where inclusivity and greater representation continues to be lacking, impacting a loss of potential revenue.

The report ‘Representation and inclusion in the fashion industry’, published by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Textiles and Fashion, found 68 percent of people have experienced or witnessed discrimination in the fashion industry based on appearance or beliefs.

The British fashion industry does not pass the inclusiveness test.

The report paints a picture that is far from the diversity objectives that the system has set itself for some time.

The report looks at the role of the fashion professional and the impacts which a lack of diversity and inclusion has, not only on the individual, but also the economic impacts on the business revenue of a brand and on the wider economy. The report also offers solutions to address the social, cultural and far-reaching implications of a less inclusive fashion industry.

85 percent of respondents do not feel represented

Three key areas of diversity and inclusion were addressed: disability, race and LGBTQ+, while acknowledging the urgent need for further research on more areas. The findings show 85 percent of respondents do not feel represented by advertising campaigns, fashion services or fashion shows, and 83 percent stated that the ideological positioning of a brand in terms of inclusiveness has a strong impact in the decision to buy or minus the products.

“It is my hope that this paper is read widely, both by industry and government, and that our recommendations serve as a roadmap towards a more inclusive, representative and successful UK fashion industry”, said Dr Lisa Cameron MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Textiles and Fashion.

The survey was drafted by members of the Fashion Roundtable advocacy group, which supports the fashion industry and urges the UK government to move towards a more representative, equitable and sustainable future.

Royce Mahawatte, professor of cultural studies at Central Saint Martins and co-author of the report, said the study only scratched the surface of the problem, revealing systems of discrimination and exclusion that are actually much deeper and more rooted in the fashion industry.

“While I am delighted that we were able to produce this ambitious report, I am also dismayed by the testimonies we have heard. I hope that both the government and industry can use our warnings and try to address the imbalances we have encountered by taking further avenues in this area of research,” said Mahawatte.

Lottie Jackson, journalist, disability activist and editor of Fashion Roundtable said: “For me, the matter extends beyond numbers and commercial incentives. Achieving greater representation in fashion is a moral imperative. We must challenge the systems that tell us, time and time again, that beauty is found in archetypal norms…True representation is about authenticity, empathy and collaboration. In fashion and politics, we must do everything to ensure that a full spectrum of identities are heard, valued and showcased in the most creative of ways. This is where real beauty lies.”

About the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Textiles and Fashion

Chaired by Dr Lisa Cameron MP, the group was re-established in 2018 to promote the UK fashion industry, supporting and championing new design, British heritage brands, fashion manufacturing, retail and creative talent, as well as business development, and trade.

The full report can be read here.