Including Diversity: the Future of Fashion is Diversity

Inclusion, diversity, equity, but also fluidity and adaptiveness—these are some of the most significant challenges that the fashion world must face in the near future. It’s a profound and radical transformation that requires a substantial commitment from the entire industry.

Fashion has the charm of both the beginning and the end, the allure of novelty, and simultaneously that of transience,” wrote German sociologist George Simmel in 1895. Fashion creates patterns and builds value scales on them, defining aesthetic and ethical categories to aspire to, gaze upon, and conform to. However, by its nature, fashion is also a destructive, irreverent, and polemic force capable of replacing the standard with revolution, anticipating and imposing change—or at least, that’s how it should be.

For this reason, it is now called upon to take concrete actions to genuinely improve its Diversity, Equity & Inclusion policies on multiple levels of operation.

In Italy, in December 2019, the Italian Chamber of Fashion, a non-profit association governing and promoting the development of Italian fashion, approved the Diversity and Inclusion Manifesto in response to what could be described as a sociocultural urgency.

The principles outlined in the manifesto concern, on one hand, the industry’s relationship with the external world, civil society, and stakeholders, and on the other, corporate culture, hiring policies, and the training of employees and collaborators. Both of these dimensions should be regarded as litmus tests for the commitment and willingness of brands to promote and stimulate the creation of a new cultural paradigm capable of supporting and embracing uniqueness while recognizing and combating all forms of discrimination.

Inclusion and diversity, as stated in the manifesto, should be considered as assets capable of creating extraordinary business opportunities. An inclusive corporate culture attracts new talents and improves relationships with customers and partners. Not to forget, fashion, by its nature, is inclined towards difference and otherness— it “listens” to cultures and life experiences that are often distant and on the margins.

“Fashion brands have the power to create new trends and lead towards positive change. A company can set new goals, change ways of thinking, broaden perspectives, and inspire a constantly changing world. What gives fashion such a strong impact is its ability to innovate and create.”

In a constantly evolving job market and world, the success of brands will depend on talent acquisition strategies, the ability to identify the best talents by looking beyond stereotypes and the familiar. Learning to consider cultural diversity, as well as physical diversity, such as neurodivergence, as the only true value proposition capable of withstanding disruptions and crises. The key is to learn to practice inclusivity proactively—not as a checkbox to tick off but rather as a legacy to cultivate and safeguard for tomorrow.