Leaders in the fashion world have promised to address racism in their businesses. But to determine if anything is improving, The New York Times reporters felt they needed a solid set of data about the current state of black representation in the industry.
Reporters called on leading brands, stores and publications to provide information about the number of Black employees and executives in their ranks – including how they design, produce and sell products; Runway; Appear in advertising campaigns and on magazine covers; And sit on corporate boards. But of the 64 companies contacted, only four fully answered a small set of questions.
In a recent article, a team of reporters Published Personal comments from black stylists, editors and publicists, as well as corporate reactions. Below is an edited conversation with those journalists: Vanessa Freedman, Salamisha Toilette, Elizabeth Patan, Jessica Testa and Ivan Nicole Brown.
What was the biggest challenge in telling this story?
VANESSA FRIEDMAN Complete lack of consistency. You are working with global organizations that speak in different types of markets, creating a whole bunch of different types of cultural fields. They are headquartered in different countries with different issues with different demographics, different histories, racism and different laws. We had a set of very simple questions, under 10, that felt like the most basic, obvious things that everyone could answer. But only four out of 64 companies responded fully.
When did you realize the inability to answer the questions?
Friedman You write what you find, and we realized that if you have a level of chaos in basic information, it’s important to move beyond that, until you can make it into a clear picture, you really don’t. Can know when progress is being made.
Why were companies not able to answer these questions?
Elizabeth Peyton Each company had its own reservations and issues and reasons. I think, to an extent, it had to do with culture. For example, how Italian brands believe that what we were trying to do was different than Americans. I mean, legal reasons were part of it, but American companies provided more information than European companies. I actually think that America is in a slightly different place at this time in its conversation about race.
Jessica test It was almost surprising that some magazines were reluctant to participate because they had numbers that were actually going to reflect well on them. I think we were getting resistance from all sides, but one thing we heard was, “I’ll be interested in participating next time.”
How did you react to the story?
Patton Most brands understand the work we are doing, even if those questions are found to be really uncomfortable. Some brands were disappointed that their efforts were not given much recognition, even though they had not given us a complete answer. I did not hear any brand saying that we had made a mistake in trying to start this project. They understand that this investigation is needed to replace them.
You also told people about their experience of working in the industry. What did you take away from him?
EVAN NICOLE BROWN It was important for me to find the intersections, but also differed in what the black professionals felt in this space. Sometimes in the past people have been asked to comment on things, and a fear has arisen that may work against them, or their concerns will be misunderstood, but I think this project has given people Did a great job making me feel comfortable speaking. I think this platform was appreciated, and it felt like there was really no fear in terms of sharing the honest experiences that definitely helped the piece and in confirming or lacking data helped.
What questions are really interesting for you?
Salmishah Tilt For me, how do you continue to diversify into leadership at the top? And then what are the structures and what are the assumptions in those places that prevent that leadership from becoming more and more diverse? Because we want to continue to change all aspects of the industry and all levers of the industry, but if the top remains unbroken, they are really the ones who are determining how other aspects of the industry are changing with it as well.
Brown I was really interested in where classism comes from in this conversation as it relates to representation. Even though representation in the fashion industry is better on the race front, work is still to be done on the socioeconomic front. Through this reporting, which was more enlightening for me – which communities are being reached and how many of these places are the ideal consumers, it is also being discussed.
What do you want the readers to take?
Friedman I think we learned a lot about where the sticking points are and what needs to be done to get a clear picture of what is happening. You cannot move forward until you know where you are. And it’s time for all of us to know where we are in this industry.