What is really “ideal”?
When we think of the models in the fashion world, the first image that pops into everyone’s head is a tall, slender, caucasian woman. This beauty standard is the “ideal” woman that has been ingrained in heads across the nation for years. The lack of diversity in the fashion world must change, rather we must think of an eclectic variety of what it means to work in the world of fashion.
One way the fashion industry has established the beauty standard in society is through their fashion shows. Their roster typically has models of the same size, race, and truly lacks the representation of the diversity that comes in the world we live in. This “norm” of what the beauty standard is needs to be dismissed. In 2019, Fashion Week made headlines in their disruption to the status quo. Finally, we are introduced to models wearing hijabs, ones with disabilities, and plus-size models. This diversity must be showcased in the industry because it marks a lasting impression to those who will think to themselves, am I not considered beautiful? Even worse, it leads to the feeling of being an “other”.
An end to conventional
An end to this conventional beauty standard is on the rise. In the 2019 Fashion Week, an estimated 48% of the featured models were from a minority group. These numbers are promising and represent the change that needs to happen in society. The feeling of being an “other” is so common, and having the fashion industry represent diversity is helping people to recognise that our differences make us beautiful. There is no one standard of beauty, beauty is subjective. Having big industries advocate for conventional beauty standards is one of the biggest issues. Big corporations have the power to create change and bring representation in the media.
There is a clear lack of diversity and inclusion within the fashion world as well. These two terms seem to be clunked together and there are clear distinctions that need to be made in order to truly understand and work for change. Diversity, within the fashion world, is often very superficial, such as different casting of races. Inclusion, however, is the measure of the culture that allows for the diversity to thrive in its environment. In simpler terms, diversity is the “what”, and inclusion is the “how”.
The conversation of what needs to change in the fashion world needs to continue in order to help stop this one size fits all approach. Change happens when people keep the conversation going and when high up executives put their foot down to practice an inclusive culture. A good start is to avoid “whataboutism”, a term coined by Oxford Dictionary which discusses how when a difficult issue arrises, such as discussing a lack of diversity in the workplace, one would then respond by raising another issue. This can undermine the recognition and education that is crucial for change to happen in minority groups.
We must stop looking for other problems that then diminish the real problem at hand. When we choose to be ignorant to key problems, we are silencing those voices that need to be heard. In order for change to happen, we should all be receptive listeners and not be afraid to voice when changes need to be done. When fashion houses continue to lack in diversity and not represent our world as a whole, it allows xenophobia and racism to become present.
What needs to be done
In order to put a stop to this, we must welcome models from different religions, races, sizes, and abilities to the runway. When they are not represented, these groups start to be perceived in a negative manner. When there is a negative connotation, biases and stereotypes begin to form. A way that fashion houses and big name brands can help put a stop to this is to bring inclusivity. Once we normalise the differences each of us have, the status quo can be disrupted and bring people peace in their own skin. It is 2020, and this is the year for disruption, so I am excited and hopeful to see what the new year brings. As we have seen in the 2019 Fashion show, brands are headed in the right direction.