According to a new report released by the Black in Fashion Council (BIFC), companies are "still unmistakably devoid of Black representation."
Founded in 2020 by Lindsey Peoples Wagner, editor-in-chief of The Cut, and public relations executive Sandrine Charles, BIFC is a collective comprised of over 400 Black stylists, models, executives, designers, and editors. The organization also recruited a roster of companies to sign onto the Black in Fashion Pledge, signifying a three-year commitment to increase their number of Black employees at the junior and executive level.
These companies also participated in a survey, led by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), to discern the current state of inclusivity and diversity in the fashion industry. The findings, released this morning, reveal that Black employees continue to face significant hurdles in advancing in fashion.
According to the report, available to the public on a dedicated website, Black women earn 80 cents for every dollar a "non-Hispanic" white man makes. Of the 30 companies surveyed, only 13 reported having initiatives in place that address pay inequality. 43 percent reported offering an Employee Resource Group (ERG) explicitly for Black employees and their allies.
Black employees are also disproportionately affected by company policies regarding dress and physical appearance, which often discriminate against natural Black hairstyles. 43 percent of participants reported the inclusion of race-based nondiscrimination policies in their equal employment opportunity policy.
"Although Blackness is often commodified for profit, Black people, Black experiences, and Black voices are rarely given a non-performative platform in the fashion industry," a page in the report reads.
The past year has seen an onslaught of fashion brands decry racism. Still, it seems that efforts to support Black professionals are inconsistent across the industry as a whole, as evidenced by BIFC's report, as well as a 2021 investigation published by The New York Times.
There's certainly no quick fix for the racism that pervades fashion. In fact, BIFC points out that "fashion, both past and present, has long upheld white supremacist ideologies and created and glorified standards of beauty and artistic expression that are explicitly anti-Black."
It's a nuanced issue, one that will take a collective, industry-wide effort to address. If there's one question to take away from the BIFC report, it's this: how can companies champion Black people, even when no one is watching?