Words: Beth Fuller
Featured image: Parys Gardener
Whilst it may be a step forward to see a closer representation of real women in the media at the moment, it seems that the word ‘diversity’ is being used as an on-trend marketing buzzword rather than genuine effort to dismantle inequality.
Recently, many Fashion and Beauty brands and publications have released campaigns marketing women’s individuality. Excitingly, the use of models with different body shapes, of different ages, and from different religious and ethnic backgrounds is a triumphant step towards inclusivity. However, it seems that the word ‘diversity’ is being used by brands to appear relevant rather than influential. Nonetheless, to highlight the commercial purpose of these campaigns is not to eradicate their positive message. Instead it is to raise awareness of the difference in selling products and contributing to the discourse on diversity.
The issue of diversity being a hot topic for brands at the moment is that, like all trends, it will fade. Additionally, the potential of profit for these brands in gaining positive press and consumer reaction is (if not the only) a possible reason why inclusive campaigns are popular today. So, it seems that brands are riding the wave of diversity to catch the consumer. Worryingly, the thought of diversity being used for commercial purposes stirs the thought that the conversation on diversity will be over as the new message that sells comes into fashion. Hypothetically, a brand in process of creating their next campaign may get the feeling that ‘we have already done a diversity advert’ whilst diversity itself needs to grow.
Moreover, the commercial purpose of the Fashion and Beauty industry has been highlighted in a recent Guardian interview with Alex Schulman. The ex editor-in-chief of British Vogue was questioned regarding the small number of covers that featured black women during her tenure. In response, Schulman replied: “You’re leading me down a path where I don’t really want to talk about who sells and who doesn’t sell”. With her honest (albeit ignorant) response, the veneer of the Fashion industry as culturally representative is torn down revealing it’s true aim: to sell.
It can then be explained, but not excused, why many popular brands have made numerous political errors in their desperate attempt to profit from being culturally relevant. Certainly, a campaign such as the infamous Pepsi advert attempting to appeal to customers by using a famous face as well as the ‘popular’ topic of protesting resulted in backlash rendering Kendall Jenner as the face of white privilege. Indeed, it is a privilege to be ignorant of the discourse on equality and diversity and assume that a campaign contributes. By using diversity as a trend, countless brands and publications have followed with the apology of ‘missing the mark’, but, what was their mark that they had so blatantly missed?
It is clear that diversity should not be used as a happy-go-lucky word that makes a brand look inviting, kind-hearted or inclusive. It is a deep and difficult topic to discuss which harks back to oppressive times in history on sexuality, race, gender, religion and more. If diversity is established then identity will be understood as multifaceted which will make lives better. Hence, the Fashion and Beauty industry should be better equipped with this understanding. Thankfully, the new editor-in chief of British Vogue, Edward Enniful, is already paving the way for this improvement. In short, diversity should improve the quality of lives for those facing unjust struggles on any scale in society, not sell clothing.