Black Lives Matter is currently reshaping the world as we know it, it has created waves in the ocean of racist institutions. Black people make up 3% of the UK population, but contribute a far larger proportion to British society, through various forms of culture. That is priceless.
Black Lives Matter was founded on the 13th July 2013, by three women Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi. They arguably have created a movement that has stood the test of time and is a movement that will forever challenge racism. Combined with lockdown the fashion industry has had to adapt through various mechanisms such as; FaceTime shoots, at home videos, and more.
The Fashion industry holds a great influence on the general population as clothes are regarded as “our second skin”, what we see is what we wear, and what we wear can be an extension of how we feel. Unfortunately, representation in the fashion industry has not always been up to par.
According to statistics, the UK spends billions on clothes every year and yet some garment workers only take home £20 a week. Of the 74 million textile workers worldwide, 80% are women of colour.
Fashion arguably must and should reflect consciously the times and represent the society in which it is situated. Prominent black names such as Naomi Campbell, Rob Evans, and even Broderick Hunter have become mainstays in fashion, yet it is not enough. There are not enough.
To the millions of black children who dream about being models, they may not feel it is possible and tangible. Having individuals who look like them is paramount to align dreams into reality. Dreams typically remain dreams, but reality can be a lucid dream in which we make real.
Look at the impact Black Panther had on the black community.
Why does representation matter?
Representation in economic terms makes sense. There was a research study published in the Journal of Market Research called ‘Testing the effect of consumer-model racial congruency on consumer behaviour’, which aimed to uncover how model casting impacts consumer behaviour.
120 female participants took part in an online study which they believed was testing their response to various perfume advertisements. In reality, the study was investigating participants’ responses to models of different races.
The participants viewed a series of stylised and randomized images of models advertising different perfumes and were asked two questions:
- How likely they were to purchase the perfume
- How much money (if any) they were willing to spend on it
Results revealed that black participants were more likely to purchase perfumes advertised by black models and were willing to spend significantly more money on the product if it was advertised by a black model as opposed to a white model. Unexpectedly, white participants produced similar results. The study found that white participants were also significantly more likely to purchase perfume and spend more money on it if it was advertised by black models than if it were advertised by fellow white models.
Psychology teaches us that witnessing the continued underrepresentation of your ethnic group can have a devastating effect, in turn creating feelings of being devalued and in turn, negatively impacts how you see yourself. Research shows us that the fashion industry can legitimize and publicize the existence of often-ignored ethnic groups.
If psychology shows us that models that look like us increase profit, why has the fashion industry failed to catch up?
As a model, I understand the social, political and cultural value it has. The number of eyes that watch and digest what they have seen means I am consistently under the scope of both the public and private eye. My position holds an immense privilege, and as a black young man who has the chance to model, it simply means the genetic lottery has afforded me her fortunes to which I can profit from.
Unwittingly models inspire, and people aspire to live the lives we do and to be able to influence the culture.
Culture is liquid, Black Lives Matter shows us that there has been a cultural reset button hit, and multicultural Britain will become a more hospitable place for everyone.
Thus, highlighting the financial and economic disadvantages of not having a diverse fashion industry hurts the industry, and it would make business sense to have a wider range of models. More models reflect the British society and society should be tailored to inclusion and not exclusion. Exclusion is not the standard British society should set, but rather we should lead the call to diversity and representation and the world will continue to follow.
Fashion at times is heavily influenced by black culture. Many would argue black culture is the bedrock upon which fashion sits. If that is true, fashion will change for the better. We need to see more ethnic minorities in fashion, not just one universal look.
As the times have changed, I pray actively that the fashion industry changes with it.