Moving from a Dream to Action: What we see, should represent who we are
by Christa Williams-Heard
Imagine you have a business and in that business you have a specific group of people that has vast buying power in your industry. You have choice. Do you represent this group in your business or conscientiously ignore them? The fashion industry has chosen to ignore black peoples’ buying power of 1.1 trillion dollars, according to Black Enterprise Magazine. Fashion industries fail to take on the responsibility of including the diversity of women and men of color. The expectation of a model, by the fashion industry, is a hydrogenous look that does not represent the looks and varieties of real people. The Fashion Spot found that 77.4% of models in New York Fashion Week’s 2015 Fall Shows were white. 8.7% of these models were black, 8.5% of them were Asian and 3.5% were Latina.
As someone interested in pursuing a career in the fashion industry, and as a consumer, I find that this lack of representation is a major human rights issue that has been the elephant in the room for many decades. According to the Fashion Spot, white models are nearly five times more likely to appear on magazine covers than people of color.
I remember being 5 years old and everyday afterschool, going through my drawers and playing dress up. I’d put together the most extravagant outfits and go about my house claiming whatever persona I wanted to be that day. But whenever I looked at magazines or even watched children movies, I didn’t see girls that looked like me. And I couldn’t help but wonder: Why don’t I look like that? I should look like them, right?
There weren’t girls that looked like me to tell me that you can be this amazing and wonderful thing. Instead I was just left questioning and doubting my ability to pursue what I was interested in and if it weren’t for my mother’s affirmations, I would still doubt myself.
If the fashion industry continues to ignore equal representation of women and men of color, little girls and little boys will continue to doubt their creativity, skill set and most importantly, themselves. In an experiment recently conducted by Good Morning America, two dolls were put in front of both black and white kids; one was black and the other was white. When asked which doll was prettier, 57% of the girls said the white one, regardless of her race. Children develop perceptions of beauty and race at an early age and they aren’t oblivious to what’s happening around them. The tragedy, of course, is these negative perceptions continue, often not acknowledged.
Now the question remains is what can we do? As consumers, of all ages, especially teens, it’s important to remember that this industry is driven by the consumer--you. We have the power to decide how it impacts society and we sub-conscientiously make that decision everyday by our own purchasing decisions. If you don’t buy clothes by designers that fail to show equal representation of people of color and even go one step further and tell them why you stopped supporting their products with your dollars, eventually, your voice can not be ignored.
It is time for we as people, as a society, as consumers to stop talking about change and start taking steps in making it happen. We start by supporting more designers with different ethnical backgrounds. We can send messages via social media by liking something on Instagram that an aspiring black designer/model posted.
I invite my peers to join me. If you’re interested in fashion or any industry that limits the power and representation of people of color--pursue your dream, pursue your aspiration—don’t be discouraged by what you see, rather understand this as our opportunity to be a catalyst for change. The challenge to fight for equal representation of women and men of color in any industry is real, so let’s make it our desire—our goal-- to make it happen.
Decatur High School