Our friend, Noti Mafico wrote a moving article on her website about her experiences as a WOC. We asked her to write an article for our website to voice her experiences and opinions on the industry she loves so much.
“Everybody Wants This. Everybody Wants To Be Us.” - Miranda Priestly
Yes, lots of people want a piece of the glitz, the glamour, excitement and mesmerising world of fashion. But has all that glitter been hiding something sinister?
The #BlackLivesMatter movement exposed some fundamental flaws in the our beloved fashion industry. An ill-fated attempt to support a noble cause exposed systemic discrimination, negligence and deception. Allegations so profound and laundry so dirty, it felt like the complete demise of the multi-billion-dollar empire as we knew it, accompanied with the revelation that perhaps we had been presumptuous and turned a blind eye to conformist constructs and prejudice attitudes.
“An industry that seems more rotten day by day” - Diet Prada
Ignorance had truly been bliss.
Our morals were tested, with the industry’s credibility now largely in question. We no longer felt it was right to wear that blue sweater selected for us by the people in that room from that pile of stuff. As it turned out, those people were the ones contributing to the cause we were trying to disseminate. Could we be like Andy? Consciously make fashion choices that we naively thought exempted us from this toxic world?
It was time to demand accountability.
#PullUpAustralia started trending and the dominos begun to fall as a conglomerate of our favourite brands were called out for a consistent lack of diversity across their most forward-facing advertising platforms. Fashion giants were exposed for having white-centric company cultures and unreasonable employee standards that were unattainable and blatantly segregated WOC.
What started as a movement about police brutality in America and the continuous mis-treatment of black people had now found its way to infiltrate the “untouchable” and esteemed empire that is the world of fashion. Out for blood, the people demanded immediate and actionable change and a vendetta against popular labels started manifesting. Businesses, now with their backs against the wall, in the most hard-pressed of situations, scrambled to resolve and dismantle any condemnations.
I mean, this stemmed from underrepresentation to representation with mistreatment, with black employees revealing that they’d been overqualified, underpaid and overworked within the walls of the fashion bible itself.
A sorry wasn’t going to suffice.
We saw many using their social platforms to commit to inclusion going forward, some pledging 25% of representation of BIPOC in their posts. As a WOC, I started to receive an influx of interest from brands wanting to collaborate for content.
Personally, the unfounded support for diversity from these brands started to feel tokenistic; a cause that seemed to have only taken precedence because it was trending.
It’s like a box had to be ticked.
Had the root sprouted into a pernicious weed?
Some had been completely silent until that point; racism hadn’t been on their radar. The darker the pigmentation of a model’s skin, the less appealing, desirable or marketable for that matter. Now, in what seemed like the most reactive of motions, these brands had decided colour was the latest “it”, trendy and aesthetic. Others had ounces of pigmented skin sprinkled strategically through their feeds and had now drastically increased this, which made it feel opportunistic as the original posts were much fewer and farther between. I know I wasn’t the only one left wondering, was this proactivity or performative marketing?
Among a myriad of other injustices, popular fashion brands were now under fire for throwing their hats into the performative ally-ship ring along with an obstinate lack of transparency.
While some hailed these broad gestures as progressive in nature, I among many others wasn’t so convinced. Although not blatantly visible to the wandering eye, a number of these brands were still enabling a gross lack of diversity and its effects behind what they thought were thick sound proof walls. We got, “We are working tirelessly behind the scenes.” But were they? The closed-door policy hadn’t put us at ease, it had only heightened our suspicions. Black women were completely absent in favour of the likes of anyone darker than Bondi Sands ultra-dark and there was also still barely any representation at head office, behind the camera or manning the makeup brush. While impressed by Jacquemus’ new L’amour Collection and show which featured a refreshingly diverse casting, I couldn’t help but question the absence of this in the operational team.
There’s a slight silver lining though.
Some action is better than none right? Vogue Australia committed to a better path forward, publishing their values and allocating resources that shed light on the #BlackLivesMatter movement. They cemented their passion towards the cause with their August cover featuring Sudanese Model Adut Akech Bior. More on Australian fashion, Zimmermann’s also somewhat kept their promise with just about 25% of representation in their posts. Bec & Bridge too. Camilla & Marc just came out with the most diverse campaign I’ve seen in a while.
We’re getting somewhere.
But we won’t see monumental changes straight away.
As much as I’d like to be Miranda and impatiently scold Andy (fashion industry) for moving at a glacial pace.
I’m thrilled that there is at least some momentum.
I can only hope that the unwitting disclosure of fashion’s “best kept” secrets has led to a more accountable, inclusive and transparent industry.
by Noti Mafico