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Driving diversity: how Virgil Abloh is fixing fashion

Diversity isn’t just about skin colour, it’s so much more than that. We’re talking about gender, sexual preferences, age, physical abilities, and religious beliefs to name a few. It isn’t just about “making up the numbers” to fill a quota. Diversity is crucial to providing equal opportunities to all.

The Equality Act of 2010 was a step in the right direction for modern diversity and equality in the workplace. It brought together acts dating back to the 1970s to early 2000s such as:

  1. Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003

  2. Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003

  3. Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006

So how is it possible that still to this day, we seem to be seeing more discrimination than ever before? Is it because we can capture this discrimination and share on social media? Or is it because the world has always been like this?

A general overview of diversity

Despite the Equality Act of 2010 coming to fruition, to this day there are still some shocking statistics that contradict this. Did you know that 78% of firms in the UK pay men more than they pay women? Did you know only 9.7% of executive positions in the FTSE 100 companies are held by women? And did you know one in eight trans employees have been physically attacked by colleagues or customers?

These are just three of the many statistics that highlight discrimination within the workplace. Although it seems the world is more accepting of diverse cultures, there’s too much evidence that suggests otherwise. We are in the year 2020. It’s time people start respecting one another no matter their race, sex, gender, or religion amongst other factors.

Diversity within the fashion industry

The fashion industry has been a mixed bag when it comes to diversity.

On one hand, you could argue it’s more diverse than it’s ever been. Ralph Lauren, Gucci, and Prada have diversity councils throughout their businesses to ensure diversity is ever-present. Gender-fluid clothing is on the rise with brands like Balenciaga and Collusion (ASOS’ brand).

Each season, fashion shows are becoming more racially diverse; at the SS19 fashion show in New York, 44.8% of runway models were women of colour. As well as this, more plus-sized brands and models are being represented at fashion shows.

However, we are still seeing signs that more needs to be done to progress diversity within the industry. In April 2019, supermodel Naomi Campbell said that her ads don’t run in some countries because she is black.

Despite making an entry into fashion shows, plus-sized models and brands need to have more representation in the industry than they do currently. Transgender models are STILL claiming the industry lacks inclusivity when it comes to LGBTQ+. It’s clear that more needs to be done for the industry to become truly diverse.

Who is Virgil Abloh?

There’s a chance not many have heard of the creative genius that is Virgil Abloh. Vogue put it perfectly: he is “arguably the sole Black American designer to have reached the apex of the international fashion system”.

Virgil first set foot into the fashion industry with an internship at Fendi, where eventually his work would attract the attention of Louis Vuitton CEO Michael Burke. In 2013, Abloh founded his own streetwear fashion brand Off-White. Partnerships and off the wall collaborations with Nike, Moncler, and even IKEA propelled his label into the limelight and to this day, Off-White and Abloh are some of the most sought after figures within fashion.

Abloh has become an icon for diversity within the fashion and music industries. In 2018, he became the first African-American artistic director of menswear at Louis Vuitton. As a result of this, his name and brand have become easy lyrics for hip-hop/rap and grime artists alike. The lyrics used by artists like A$AP Rocky, Quavo, and Drake emphasise their pride and admiration for Abloh.

The “post modern” scholarship

Earlier this week, Abloh announced his $1m scholarship fund to provide more opportunities for black creatives. The Virgil Abloh “Post Modern” Scholarship Fund gained contributions from his partners at Louis Vuitton and Evian and promises to go even further than the initial $1m. The scholarship fund will also work in partnership with the Fashion Scholarship Fund to create even more opportunities for creatives of all backgrounds.

Abloh says “it’s time for us not to make this industry about fashion, but about people”. I don’t know about you, but I think his words should be echoed across all industries and walks of life. It’s people who make a difference in the world. A business should focus on people and their skill set/abilities. Not whether they are white or black, straight or gay, male or female.

The importance of diversity

Diversity isn’t something that should be considered as a trend. It’s something that needs to be adopted in all industries and walks of life. It’s been proven that businesses that tend to be more diverse than others not only perform better but have greater levels of job satisfaction. A diverse workplace can provide so many benefits for all involved. Diverse teams perform better. Diversity is educational; we can all learn from each other’s cultures, backgrounds, and interests.

Diversity isn’t just about skin colour, it’s so much more than that. It isn’t just about “making up the numbers” to fill a quota. Diversity is crucial to providing equal opportunities to all. If you want another perspective on diversity, feel free to check out the diversity of body images within the fashion industry here.


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