Last Wednesday Teen Vogue Editor-in-Chief Lindsay Peoples Wagner and fashion publicist Sandrine Charles announced the launch of the Black in Fashion Council on Instagram with the aim to “represent and secure the advancement of black individuals in the fashion and beauty industry”. The initiative has been created in response to the lack of corporate action taken to tackle fashion’s inclusivity problem ― amidst the hundreds of brands posting for #BlackoutTuesday and black squares across Instagram totalling 20 million posts, stakeholders at major fashion and beauty brands are yet to announce corporate action that will promote long term accountability inside of their companies. The Black in Fashion Council is formed of a network of some of the most influential people in the business, including stylist Shiona Turini, GQ Deputy Fashion Director Nikki Ogunnaike and brand consultant Chrissy Rutherford.
Today, the initiative officially launches with a number of key strategies being put in place that are currently lacking from the fashion industry. A fundamental part of the council is their creation of formalised tools and traceable accountability methods for fashion industry stakeholders to practice within their businesses. From today, the BIFC are asking brands to take part in a three-year pledge for inclusion in which brands will receive tools for accountability and a yearly equality score, meaning the diversity of a company behind closed doors will be visible to all, creating transparency beyond the curated Instagram mission statement of recent weeks.
It’s a pioneering initiative for an industry that is having a moment of truth around it’s shameful lack of inclusivity. It’s a reckoning that’s palpable in Europe, where three of the biggest fashion capitals are located ― Milan, Paris and London. An important part of the BIFC is that it will bring together black fashion industry insiders from across the world to create change in these regions. “Black creatives in Europe will be empowered by the Black in Fashion Council’s work” says Milan-based Tamu McPherson, Editor-in-Chief of All the Pretty Birds. For McPherson, Milan is an essential place for the BIFC to be operating in. “The brands in Milan are huge advertisers and marketers” she says, “if you look at any magazine, the Italian brands probably occupy more advertising space than other brands, they hold a lot of influence. On the other hand, American publications and American talent and creators have a huge influence globally. And I feel that being here in Milan, the council can definitely set an example of how things can work for inclusion in the fashion industry as a whole.”.
An aim of the BIFC is to counter the armchair activism of #BlackoutTuesday with measurable accountability from fashion brands, small and large, creating transparency over inclusivity. It’s work McPherson has been doing for a while. “What’s been emerging in Milan recently is a conversation surrounding inclusivity coming from a generation of black and Afro Italians. It’s a movement that when I first came to the city 14 years ago, I didn’t see. It’s exciting, they’re using their voices to point out this inequity in the industry. The Black in Fashion Council will mobilise these voices further.”
“The mission is for the Black in Fashion Council to represent and secure the advancement of black individuals in the fashion and beauty industries” says fashion editor and stylist Jan Quammie. Quammie, formerly Fashion Editor at InStyle Germany and Style Director at High Snobiety, has worked in the fashion industry in Germany for the last seven years. “In Germany, I don’t see anyone on the c-suite level. We now want to see that black people are represented and amplified at every level, from junior to senior positions. It’s all about what you can see” she says, “there’s a lot of black talent out there, but if those designers were getting stronger exposure and support, we would see even more black talent come to the fore.”.
The BIFC believes in accountability over cancel culture. “It’s not about cancel culture”, Quammie says, “however, there are some brands that aren’t doing enough, the BIFC will provide tools to make accountability essential, not an option.”. In early June, they started working with the Washington D.C. based Human Rights Campaign to create their equality index score. It’s a strategy similar to the Mansfield Rule, which asks the legal industry to recruit 30 percent minority, female and LGBTQ+ candidates. The Human Rights Campaign is the largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer civil rights organisation in the world and have already established a Corporate Equality Index for LGBTQ+ people, which brands such as Levi’s and Kerring are members of. This Index is crucial to the BIFC’s work “some brands have already been forced into action, because of controversies that have occurred” McPherson says, “we’re going to see a spectrum of responses and a spectrum of results. Cancel culture doesn’t work, accountability work does, when you can see a number of organisations that really and truly are committed to inclusivity, that makes a difference. That’s why you need an outside governing body that is creating resource materials to keep people on track.”.
The council is a central hub that other inclusion movements are working alongside. Over the last month there have been a broad range of initiatives launched from fashion and beauty industry members, such as the 15 Percent Pledge by Brother Vellies founder Aurora James, the Fashion For All Foundation, run by campaigners Hannah Stoudemire and Ali Richmond, and The Kelly Initiative, co-founded by Kibwe Chase-Marshall. These groups are part of a thriving and quickly growing global movement made out of some of the most powerful people in fashion. Chase-Marshall says it’s crucial for these new initiatives to mobilise as a group to ignite change. “The important thing is that the work is being done. And in fact, it is probably advantageous to have a more comprehensive approach toward progress for us to be, if not on different pages, pursuing different realisations of equity within the industry.”.
The BIFC have tapped into the power of the collective. “Because of the sheer number of people of colour professionals in the industry in the United States, the Council is stronger, the voices are stronger and the professional have years and years of experience,” McPherson says — “and I think the policy that’s coming out will be an example for countries like Germany, Italy and France to follow.”.