An inside look at the vicious cycle that fuels the fashion industry, where rich white people determine beauty standards and who gets access in the first place

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A fixation on thin, white, feminine beauty and use of appropriated styles like dreadlocks have long been results of systemic racism within the fashion world. Designer Marc Jacobs was criticized for his use of dreadlocks in his Spring/Summer 2017 fashion show.

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A recent uptick in calls for social justice over the past month has reached the fashion industry, with employees of several brands coming forward with allegations of racist behavior and toxic workplace environments.Accusations of marginalization aren’t new in the image-obsessed industry, but the combination of a pandemic, changing consumer expectations, and the Black Lives Matter movement has some experts saying this could be the tipping point.Experts told Business Insider that the corporatization of the fashion industry has made decision-makers focus on what they see as the most valuable customers: middle-class white women and teens with extra spending money.Through this white gaze, fashion aspirations center on an idealized version of young, thin, white, feminine, and able-bodied beauty.But younger customers, who are more sensitive to diversity and inclusion and tolerant of political messaging from brands, are demanding change using their money and social-media power.Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

On June 1, L’Oréal Paris posted on Instagram a black square with white text that read, “Speaking out is worth it.” The brand, like countless others, expressed solidarity with the Black community amid widespread protests calling for police reform in the wake of the killing of George Floyd.But not everyone was convinced companies would back up diversity and inclusion efforts with systemic change.In particular, L’Oréal Paris came under scrutiny for its post because of its treatment of the British model and activist Munroe Bergdorf in 2017, when the brand canceled her campaign after she spoke out against racism. “I said just yesterday that it would only be a matter of time before RACIST AF brands saw a window of PR opportunity to jump on the bandwagon,” Bergdorf wrote on Instagram.That bandwagon Bergdorf was referring to is the Black Lives Matter movement, which many fashion brands and media outlets have hopped on with social-media posts. Now they are weathering a storm after what employees at brands like Reformation, Anthropologie, Refinery29, and Vogue describe as years of toxic company culture.

Munroe Bergdorf called out the beauty brand L’Oréal Paris.

Gareth Cattermole/GAY TIMES/Getty

Since the beginning of June, the fashion world has been whirling with allegations of racial discrimination.Anthropologie was accused on Instagram of racially profiling Black shoppers.Former Refinery29 beauty writer Khalea Underwood wrote for Business Insider that she wasn’t given the same opportunities as white reporters, making her believe she was “merely a diversity hire.” The site’s cofounder and editor in chief, C
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