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Brief Published: 11 Jan 2019

CFDA’s Diversity Report: Is the Industry Doing Enough?

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As consumers and the media alike become savvy to the fashion industry’s shortcomings, its gatekeepers are increasingly being held accountable. But while consumer-led movements may have sparked a sustainability revolution, the first ever diversity report from the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) shows tangible steps towards creating inclusivity are still lacking. 

Released in collaboration with PVH Corp. (a US conglomerate that owns brands like Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger), the Insider/Outsider report outlines the industry’s failure to cater to the diversity of individuals across race, gender, sexuality, age and ability.

It also notes that the inclusion of diverse individuals in fashion spaces does not signal inclusivity. So, while organisations like TFS (The Fashion Spot) use a seasonal count of diverse models to measure industry change and progress, their reports show that such inclusion fluctuates year on year – debunking the myth that visibility is evidence of progress. For more, see Diversity Makes History on the S/S 19 Catwalks.

The report’s findings signal a similar dissatisfaction among the 50 fashion industry insiders surveyed. Participants gave their workplaces an average of three out of five for both inclusivity (62%) and the extent to which diverse groups are able to fully contribute (32%).

In response, the CFDA has hired American model and activist Bethann Hardison to work alongside it on a series of diversity and inclusion initiatives. Industry accountability is vital for any progress at all, but without recommending specific actions to promote change, talk of diversity falls into a common trap of harnessing an issue simply when it is trendy or business savvy to do so.

To explore how brands can authentically engage with these issues, see A Fashion A’woke’ning: Mainstreaming Diversity, Redressing Femininity: Reality and The Kinship Economy: Engaging Future Communities.