Consumers Care About Diversity & Inclusion — and They Want Companies to Own Up to Their Mistakes

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Diversity is likely among the most-discussed topics for fashion brands and retailers right now. But it isn’t just a buzzword: Consumers are now increasingly making their shopping choices based on a brand’s approach to diversity and inclusion.

According to a First Insight, Inc. report released today, over half of U.S. consumers said having women and minorities in senior leadership positions was important — with 52% of women and 54% of men saying that companies should hire chief diversity officers. Roughly half of Americans surveyed (48% of men and 45% of women) said cultural inclusivity was important.

 

As D&I dominates fashion industry discussions, luxury brands have beefed up their initiatives. Gucci named Renée E. Tirado its first-ever global head of diversity, equity and inclusion in July, while Prada announced a diversity council with Ava DuVernay and Theaster Gates as co-chairs in February. Just this month, French luxury conglomerate Kering appointed Kalpana Bagamane Denzel chief diversity, inclusion and talent officer.

Fast-fashion and athletic brands have also taken steps to improve their D&I. In 2018, H&M selected Annie Wu as its global leader of diversity and inclusiveness and Nike installed Kellie Leonard as its first chief diversity and inclusion officer.

Notably, many of the brands that have taken steps toward diversity and inclusivity have done so in response to scandal. For instance, Gucci came under fire in May for selling an $800 “Indy Full Turban” resembling a religious article of clothing for Sikhs, as well as in February for selling an $890 balaclava sweater that consumers said looked like blackface iconography. Meanwhile, Prada’s Otto character sparked backlash in December 2018, as many deemed its appearance similar to blackface. And Burberry took heat when it sent a model out at its fall ’19 show wearing a hoodie that featured a drawstring, resembling a noose. (read more)

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