AMF @ WWD DEC19
Fashion, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is not only “a popular style of clothes or hair at a particular time or place,” but also “a popular way of behaving. ” There is no doubt diversity and inclusivity became popular, key issues in fashion in 2019, in a movement “bottom-to-top,” propelled by consumers, the general public and the power of social media, ready to censor, rectify, give voice to those without a voice, urge, applaud or simply react. Long considered a pool of creativity, freedom and innovation, the fashion industry has actually realized there are still steps to be taken and that it is not as diverse as it thought.
Alessandro Maria Ferreri, chief executive officer and owner of The Style Gate consulting firm, concurred. While underscoring this is “surely a very important cultural step in the luxury world,” which has given jobs “to minorities who were simply invisible to the fashion system before,” Ferreri also pointed to the influence of social media, which have “an enormous power in declaring the success or the failure of a collection or a choice of image with an incredible speed in circulating the news.”
The Dolce & Gabbana fallout in China last year, following offending videos from the brand and comments from Stefano Gabbana’s Instagram, which the designer contended had been hacked, served as a warning signal that pushed “everyone to rush and fix things, to create an internal filter or buffer over style, communication and visual merchandising, fearing social media’s censorship,” observed Ferreri. Minorities, religions, cultures are all apparently protected “by a moral entity” within each brand, “which technically should be omniscient in recognizing in an embroidery a possible sign that can be linked to the Arab language; a color of a sweater that can be reminiscent of the skin tone of Native Americans, or in a headgear a reference to a faraway tribe in the Amazon rainforest. It’s a huge task, almost impossible to take on to do it properly, because, if we must be careful, we must be so with everyone,” said Ferreri.
While clearly pleased about the progress made and “the removal of stupid barriers,” he was also suspicious of “marketing operations that are almost worse than discrimimtion, “self-imposed racial quotas, “commercializing ethical choices for brand awareness,” which “leave a sour taste in one’s mouth. I believe an idea must be really absorbed and not converted into a marketing tool, as part of any step forward in cultural progress,” he said, citing, for example, the ban on fur by companies that have little to no business in that arena and continue to work with exotic hides.