It was just over a year ago, during the season of the 2020 show, that the fashion world had gathered together for the last time. Since then, two forces of the epidemic and the social justice movement have angered the industry, forcing it to take a fresh look at an old system and face questions that had been sinned over the years – especially Its own history of racism from.
So where are we now?
As the 2021 season dropped, The New York Times gathered four industry power players to address the question: Olivier Rousting, creative director of Balmain; Maria Rag, chief executive of social shopping platform Depot; Valentino’s creative director Pierpolo Pisicoli; And Zarina Acres, stylist of “Black Is King” and founder of everything digital marketplace Black-Owen. The conversation is edited and condensed.
Vanessa Friedman: Do you think fashion has made real progress in addressing social justice? Or is it mostly the matter?
Oliver Haste: Black Lives Matter is a subject that is really important, but it is nothing new. I started my fight years ago. I started the Balman Army hashtag seven years ago to fight for my values and for what I believe in. At that time no one was talking about diversity. It was only two or three years ago that people started to realize that I am a black designer and actually ask me things. I have always been the same, but now this is the subject that people really dare to talk about.
Zarina Akers: This is something you have to talk about at least until we get to the point where you don’t have to count the numbers and quotes, and it’s not: “Okay, I’m going to get my quota 33.3 percent of the women I have met for the company. We did it, here we are, we did something for you. “Unless it is second nature, it has to be at the forefront. Because otherwise it would be, as before. It is done, a mistake has been made.
Maria Raga: When we began to look at issues of diversity within our internal team, we realized that diversity is something that you can improve by making it your goal – we have quotas in terms of representation – but inclusivity was different. We felt that just sponsoring black-owned businesses was not enough. We need to show more about their journey and how they got there, and create role models that will allow other people to feel included – not just pretend that there are “many types”.
Pierpolo Piscioli: We were all changed from the moment of this epidemic, and we all talked about the system, about the industry, and I personally think that being radical is important in our actions to be extreme. We really have to believe in something, and when you believe in something, you should not be fair and be gentle, but very focused. I am a father, so I think it is very important to talk about the world without any kind of limitations.
Zarina: It is really important to remind ourselves where that movement began: with the loss and injury to the human body. Subsequently, as a response, a move was made to persuade the black community, to put forward more Black designers as an answer, perhaps, not to attack many corporations.
Vanessa: Is there pressure to change what is coming from inside the brand or from people who actually buy clothes or at least follow social media?
Maria: Ninety percent of our users are Gen Zs. He is a socially empowered person. They have a voice, and they want to use it, even though many of them only do it through social media. They are going to take this industry into account, and if the industry wants to remain relevant with this audience, it needs to adopt its practice. An Australian salesman told me that during the epidemic, he lost his job, and he is super-passionate to thrill. So he started his Diphop shop, earning money and using it to make a documentary on mental health issues for the LGBTQ + community.
Olivier: From what happened with the epidemic it became clear that fashion was talking to the elite. But we realized that fashion needs more than the housemates for a fashion show. We should be a community of the world – not separate, not divided.
Pierpolo: Valentino was a brand known for exclusivity, for a certain type of lifestyle, and the real challenge was for this brand to embrace a new world that is based on the idea of inclusivity. As a designer and a person, I want to tell about my work, about my values, what I do. Two years ago, I did a couture show about Black Beauty to update that idea of Couture as relevant to a new world. When Haute Couture was born, magazines such as Ebony or Jet were not even allowed to borrow clothes to shoot them.
Olivier: When I reached Balmen, I saw much criticism of French because the French do not like to refer to the word diversity. They kept saying, “It is anyway, we don’t need to mention it.” There were some people in the French fashion crowd who did not believe in diversity at all. He thought, perhaps, that it was not associated with luxury. So I think the problem with those people is to try to convince them that one color is not going to define the level of chic or not chic.
Zarina: Initially I created an Instagram page to share the things I love and which are beautiful. Then people wanted some sort of center, so I decided to make Black Owned Everything, a website and a real market. It was actually: “Well, we are able to give this visibility. We now have a really long-lasting, long-lasting resource for the consumer where they can come in and (a) find really cool things and (b) support more independent creators? “
Vanessa: What obstacles have you encountered?
Olivier: I had two problems, in France, for honor: my complexion and my youth. Because we all know that the older you are in France, the better you are. You know, it’s like alcohol. When the wine is very refreshing, very small, it’s never the best, you know?
Maria: It is the same with women.
Pierpolo: I think you have to give everyone equal opportunities. You have to stand up for everyone, not a tick. I think the idea of equality is you don’t think of progress when you have someone in front of you. You are open with only human in front of you. But you can be an amplifier.
Vanessa: so what will you do now?
Olivier: The school also lacks diversity in France. How many black designers are there in France? It is very clear. So my role is, “If it happened to me, it could happen to you.” If you start at school, you will start creating a new generation of people who will believe that they can be part of a fashion world that is truly exclusive.
Maria: We thought that there is a plan that is out there, and makes us fully accountable, makes me fully accountable, would be a good example for others.
Pierpolo: I don’t think you make a manifesto. I do not just give clothes. I am not interested in this. I am interested in distributing values through fashion and through images. So if one looks at a picture and realizes that there is an idea of equality, it is not something that you have to enhance with words. Images can be stronger than words. My personal Instagram is a celebration of humanity. Every post has the name of the person I am in the picture.
Olivier: The more you show from your atelier, the more you show from your team, the more you show from behind the curtain, the more you really show the truth and reality of who you are and what your vision is. I have my press officers next to me, and they might not like what I’m going to say, but for a trend there is a difference between Black Lives Matter and the people who really believe it.
You see the difference from different houses in how they are afraid to point a finger at them. You realize who believed in him during this year and who believed in him for the rest of his career.
Zarina: Externally, many companies are making efforts. But what I am seeing is that they are offering a lot of money to a lot of black creators so that they can do what they are trying to do, and they give them design fees or usage rights. Are not paid enough. So I am hoping that people will be compensated a lot to make it diversified and more inclusive. It is easy for many companies to take one to three years in these partnerships with Black Creators to buy some time until the next thing, but I expect it will last longer this time.