Monday, April 9, 2018

Fashion Needs an Inclusion Rider

I’ve been reading a lot about diversity and inclusion in the influencer fashion space lately, and thought I’d share some of my findings and thoughts with you all.

Back in January, online retailer Revolve found itself at the center social media fiasco after, once again, hosting a group of social media influencers who all had light skin and were thin during a lavish trip. Now, the women were of different racial and ethnic backgrounds, but they all had fair skin, leading to the hashtag “RevolveSoWhite”. This sparked a discussion around skin tone and body type diversity in the social media influencer sphere. Namely, who gets to be an influencer and why?

Advertising through social media has become the newest investment for many fashion brands, as opposed to spending money on celebrity endorsements or glossy editorials in magazines. Often, brands are directly selling a product, while also selling the idea of a lifestyle. Which is why some brands, like Revolve, might take a group of women on a fancy trip to Thailand as part of its marketing approach.

For me, the Revolve incident was simply another instance of companies overlooking qualified women of color. It is not secret that thin, white or fair skinned, able-bodied, cisgender women remain the pinnacle of “aspirational” branding, but seeing these women is getting more and more tired.

I love social media, particularly Instagram, because it allows me to curate an aspirational space where I can connect with other like minded women, particularly black women. At the beginning of this year, I decided that I was only going to follow women on instagram who created content that I found useful, mostly that’s been health and wellness content. Beyond that, I made it a point to seek out black women creating this content and to actively engage with their content. Just about everyone wants to see themselves represented at scale, and I think social media allows for this happen in a way that is accessible for black women who do not see themselves represented well in traditional media outlets.

With that being said, as advertising and marketing takes a turn to utilizing social media, it is important for the idea of the aspirational woman or lifestyle to be refreshed. Black women have tremendous spending power in the US market and are often the origin of some of fashion’s favorite trends (see: cornrows, acrylic nails, chunky jewelry, etc). We also love to share and read product reviews online, so for brands to really thrive in the future, they need to appeal to those of us who are helping set the trend course.

As time goes on, new media will eventually be considered traditional media, and by taking an approach early on to be intentional about diversity and inclusion, brands can avoid cultural snafus. And we, as black women, have to demand more from the places where we spend our money. I recently read a piece on Fashionista about why fashion needs an inclusion rider, and I couldn't agree more. It has always been important for black women to create space for more black women, and will be more important as social media advertising continues to be more and more lucrative.

Soon, it will not be enough to have just one black girl in an ad campaign. Soon, it will not be enough to have one black girl who has light skin in an ad campaign. Soon, it will be pivotal for the depth and diversity of blackness to be represented in ad campaigns. As black women, when approached for brand collaborations, it’s important for us to consider the collaboration in the broad space of the brand and understand that it is not okay to be the only black face. This why fashion needs an inclusion rider. Moving forward, we have to make sure that we bring all of our friends to the party, then invite some more.

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