Fashion industry discrimination and lack of diversity exposed in new report

Dr Lisa Cameron MP
Dr Lisa Cameron MP

Discrimination and under-representation continues to pervade the UK fashion industry – a new report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Textiles and Fashion (T&F APPG) reveals.

Almost 90% of people surveyed for the report said that fashion industry images did not represent a spectrum of different bodies and identities, while 87.5% said they did not feel represented in advertising campaigns, fashion shoots and on the catwalk.

The survey also found that 68% had experienced or witnessed discrimination in the fashion industry based on appearance or beliefs, with the largest group saying this was based on body image at 73.4% followed by ethnicity, age, disability, gender and religious expression.

Meanwhile 90.5% said they were motivated to buy from fashion brands with a good reputation for inclusivity, while 83.7% said a non-inclusive reputation would impact on their decision to shop with a particular brand.

The report also sets out a number of key recommendations for change across both government and fashion businesses – in a bid to build a more inclusive and successful industry.

Recommendations for government include the recruitment of a senior civil servant to coordinate and lead on the UK government’s policy on the fashion industry.

The report also calls for a roundtable, to be convened by a Cabinet Minister, to further discuss education strategies, research on diverse sections of society, access to jobs, job retention, diversity in leadership roles and support for people with disabilities into the fashion workforce.

Fashion industry recommendations include the creation of a national fashion education strategy and a call for companies to set out routes into leadership for underrepresented groups.

Commenting on the report, T&F APPG chair Dr Lisa Cameron MP said: “This report looks at the role of the fashion professional and the impacts which a lack of diversity and inclusion has, not only on the individual, but also the economic impacts on the business revenue of a brand and on the wider economy.

“But this is not just an economic impact, it has social and far-reaching implications, all of which this paper not only outlines, it offers solutions to address.

“It is my hope that this paper is read widely, both by industry and government, and that our recommendations serve as a roadmap towards a more inclusive, representative and successful UK fashion industry.”

The Fashion Roundtable’s Fashion Director Karen Binns, who is also on the British Fashion Council’s Diversity Steering Group, added: “Statistics do not lie. We know from the data that the person of colour spends double, sometimes triple the amount of money on clothes. Why? Because they must. We must.

“We are constantly the most judged on our appearances, which means we have no choice but to look the part, at all times to represent and to be successful.

“People of colour will be dismissed, ignored, and disregarded for an equal opportunity. This is business, and if fashion brands continue to ignore this issue of disregarding their biggest consumer they will lose – completely – especially now, that all black owned businesses are on an all time rise. At the end of the day, just do the numbers!”