Racial Inclusion in the Fashion Industry

In the fashion industry I’ve been privileged because of the color of my skin. 

From the number of opportunities that I get to the ease of being able to walk onto set without hearing any comments or concerns about the texture of my hair or a makeup artist not having foundations to match my skin tone. My physical attributes have given me an enormous advantage. But in the last year the tide has started to change. The industry is starting to embrace diversity, and as a white model, although I’m shocked it has taken this long for the conversations to be held, and I think we still have a long way to go, I am truly thankful our industry is shifting. 

Growing up in Toronto I was exposed to different cultures at a very young age. In my elementary school, there weren’t any cliques because of what race you were. I learned about inclusion and saw it firsthand. A lot of my friends had interracial parents. There wasn’t even a conversation about it because it was so normal. So to then be a part of an industry that seemed so backwards, it really bothered me. I want to be a part of a workplace environment that I respected and believed in. And there have been a lot of things I’ve disagreed with thus far. 

Only within the past few years, as Instagram grew in popularity, models were able to share much more about themselves beyond their looks. We were able to share our stories, the good and the bad. My story enabled me to show the world Britt as a whole package and to me, being booked because a client liked my personality, my story, or was interested in my passion projects beyond modeling, always felt so much more special to me than being booked for the way I looked. 

There were also people’s stories of struggle, people’s stories of type cast, people’s stories of the biggest elephant in the room of the discrimination they were facing as minority individuals trying to make it as a Black, Asian, trans, plus size, you name it model*. Through social media platforms, the obvious racial inequality, especially evident on the runway, magazine covers and editorials because of their visibility, became apparent to all and thus was hard to ignore any further. Brands were getting called out for not being inclusive and diverse and the discussions began to flow.

In fashion, whether for good or bad, oftentimes if there’s some sort of issue (sustainability, inclusion of size, inclusion of race…) the solution may become a trend. People try to “fix” it because it seems like it’s the “thing to do”. What’s missing in that sentence is that companies should be doing it because it’s the right thing to do.  

So, when people started speaking out about the lack of diversity in fashion and especially on the runways, a few shows thought their solution would be to use one Black or Asian model. [1] One doesn’t mean inclusion. In and outside of the shows, there were issues of cultural appropriation and a profound sense of insensitivity. [2] We weren’t there yet. People thought we were there, but we were far from representing equally. **

The Fashion Spot is an online magazine that began tracking the diversity on runways and reporting its finding to its readers. Only recently, we found articles reporting that Spring 2019 (September of 2018) was one of the most diverse runways that we’ve ever seen. Out of 229 shows that were analyzed, 36.1% of all shows included models of color, a 3.6% increase from Fall’s 2018 report. In Spring 2017, only 17% of runway models were nonwhite. [3] In New York specifically we’ve seen the most improvement with nearly half, 44.8% of cast models being nonwhite (which should be noted, may have skewed other fashion capital’s results). Fall 2019 took a 2.7-point jump with 38.8% of model appearances representing models of color. [4]

Of course this looks like we’re changing for the better, and perhaps we’re getting there but even still, “looking” like we’re on the right track isn’t fixing the issue at heart. Now that models on the runway are being more represented (I say more, not fully), there’s room for more inclusion inside the entire industry. From designers to casting directors, art directors, creative directors and beyond, we need more representation and support of all races and only then, can we see a drastic change in fashion. We need it from all angles and we need to continue to educate ourselves. How can we change if we continue to support those who are unwilling to change? How can we change if we’re stuck in our ignorant patterns? Don’t dismiss the issues. Look into upcoming designers from different backgrounds who are trying to make it on their own dime with little to no connections to help them. Support them. Appreciate them for their talent and what they are offering and appreciate their fight that was undoubtedly harder than anyone else who made it through their privileges or connections. 

In fashion and beyond, we need to diversify and support those who have been marginalized. I love this article that brings up the issue at hand but goes on to offer a solution to the problem. (Click here to read more). We can’t keep going through cycles of outrage and outcry for it to then be forgotten and happen time and time again. Who knows if this current outpouring of support for nonwhite models is merely a temporary trend or a long term solution? For instance, we may ask ourselves: “How did we let runways and fashion in general be so white?” But are we really surprised this keeps happening? This will continue to occur in a predictable and regular manner only because fashion has created an industry that chooses to not see color.” [5] Clearly, in and beyond the runway, the lack of diversity in fashion leads to situations of inequality to occur. More people of color must be in positions of power in the fashion industry as a whole so that we can all equally have a voice, work together, learn from each other a grow together. [6]

Here’s a list of some of my favorite designers, models, art directors, photographers and creative directors in the fashion community, all who have made a name for themselves in fashion, however perhaps much easier said than done. Let’s celebrate them for their grit, their skill and their approval of inclusion. Listen to how they got to where they’re at, empathize with their background and read about their stories of perseverance and strength. 

• Maxwell Osborne and Dao-Yi Chow

• Telfar Clemens

• Kerby Jean-Raymond

• Tracy Reese

• LaQuan Smith

• Lyfestyle

• Hannah Stoudemire

• Campbell Addy

• Dana Scruggs

• Tyler Mitchell

• Edward Enninful

• Elaine Welteroth

• Shiona Turini

• Anok Yai

• Estelle Chen

So, what sparked this article? Frustration comes to mind. We’re still nowhere near where we need to be in terms of inclusion, and I pray this is a trend that continues to grow and will LAST. I’m so thankful the industry is getting better at inclusion. The conversation is there. It’s about time for fashion to represent all and to ensure we’re representing equally. For that means as a collective, hopefully we are steering away from workplace ignorance. Because ignorance in this case, is anything but bliss. 

* [All discriminations are separate issues that all need to be addressed but definitely not clumped together. I will focus on race for this article.]

 **[ Diversity is the “measure of difference” in a workplace. Inclusion, on the other hand, describes a climate where people of all types feel comfortable expressing themselves, creating a scenario where everyone is able to contribute their best work.] [7]


Get the Off Duty Model Look

Source:    Ghentstreets

Source: Ghentstreets

For models, it’s not only our job to wear incredible garments by top designers but we always try to look put together when we’re “off duty” and on the go. (This may sound incredibly vain talking in first person) but when you see us on the street you’ll generally know we’re a model and not only because of our height but oftentimes because of our timeless style that never goes out of trend (mostly talking about my friends here, my street style consists of a lot of workout wear, naturally). However, for days when I’m feeling like dressing the part, here’s what I’ve learned after six years of modeling in New York City about achieving a classic wardrobe to complete your model off duty look.

As a rookie in the industry, a model tends to wear the same black tank top, white t shirt, black jeans, etc. because you’ll get 15+ castings a day during fashion week and you have to always be ready to go for that last minute job or go-see (I think I have over 15 black tank tops!). It is in our best interest to wear this because we meet so many new clients and our 'uniform' makes us work appropriate at any time. If you get caught out of the house in anything that isn't great for clients to see you in (it’s happened and it sucks…), you’re damn right that’s when you got a last minute casting that you have to be at ASAP with no time to go home and change.  

Source:    Ghentstreets

Source: Ghentstreets

As you grow with the industry, agents and clients start to trust our judgement that comes naturally with experience. You start to feel more confident about branching out and wearing things a little more gratifying than these go-to tanks and tees.  Don’t get me wrong I still have and wear all of them, they're my staples, but I’ve learned to add fun accessories and awesome vintage jackets and make that same black tank top we all have my own

After your first few seasons go well and you make a good amount of money, naturally as a new young model in NYC you spend it.  It's easy to justify spending way more than you ever have because you were making a lot of money up front and you don't have to think about paying taxes until the end of the year. Other girls wear designer clothes, shoes, and bags so you inevitably feel the pressure, after living in the same tank top for weeks on end, to spruce up your wardrobe with the newest, hottest stuff. What happens at the end of the season is that a lot of us learn trends go out of style and you’re left in debt wondering how you will pay all your accumulating taxes. Was it really worth it to buy a bunch of stuff that you no longer wear so you could land yourself on a couple cool street style blogs? Probably not.

From my experience of trying to achieve that perfect off duty style, I've finally learned how to dress in a way that is budget friendly, eco-friendly and timeless.  When we’re off duty, we’re always wearing something that could be well perceived in front of our agents or clients. We have all the basics to complete a timeless wardrobe, the best white t shirts, the perfect fitting black tanks, amazing skinny jeans, slim-fit boyfriend jeans, denim shorts, cool boots and a great bag. We also occasionally indulge in designer clothing and accessories (for me it's important that they're thoughtfully produced in sustainable ways, better yet used from sites like The RealReal or Tradesy) but it’s always important to remind yourself to choose pieces that will never go out of style. That all black leather backpack I have gets worn every single day. My oversized bright pink sweater that was ‘in’ two seasons ago still gets worn, but maybe only once per year. Think about what you invest in and try not to fall into the latest trends. You'll find you'll save a ton of money and always look put together with your simple, stylish staples. 

Here are some of my go-to off duty looks! 

Second Calm Before the Storm Event

Fashion week is a time that happens twice a year and is when our industry truly becomes alive. The energy is heightened, New York, London, Milan and Parisian streets become a runway show themselves with everyone wearing their best streetwear as models run from casting to show to casting again with little sleep food or sanity.

With a few seasons under our belt, Dani and I understand how stressful this time of the year can be and therefore wanted to provide models with an outlet. Last year we held the Calm Before the Storm, a bi-annual pre-fashion week event for models to de-stress, primp and prep themselves for the upcoming shows. It was such a success that we decided to throw another one, this year with even more sponsors, more vendors, and super special guests to lead our opening chat.

To see our community come together was so special and we’re happy to see this event grow stronger every year. From new faces in the industry to models with cool side projects, it was a beautiful night of love and laughter and was so fun to be in a space with each other minus the competition or anxiety. We hope everyone went into fashion week with a new friend, a little less stress and confident you can kill it. And if you need advice or a coffee to grab, Dani and I are always down (especially for matcha lattes at Blue Stone Lane;).

Without our community of sponsors, we wouldn't have been able to throw together such a fun night!

Sponsors:

The delicious food we enjoyed was catered by Ripe! Ripe is a healthy food catering company in NYC. They believe food isn't just fuel, it's an experience, it's community, it's growth. We agree! Ripe donated their event space to us for their event! You can tag them on any posts using these handles: @so_ripe

Sustainability was a big topic of our event today. Check out one of our favorite clothing brand's ADAY! Tag your ADAY pics wearing their hat to receive a discount at their store! @thisisaday

Those beautiful serums you received are from Amberlight Beauty, a company started by Dominyka Gajauskaite. Dominyka ensures the best material go into all of her products from rose oil to open your heat to chamomile for calming your senses. Find out more at @amberlightbeauty

The cutest toothbrush + dental floss packs were provided to you all from BOKA. They're a mindful oral care company that stresses the importance of working with our bodies, not against them. See all of their fun pics and share yours @boka!

EcoEnclose provides sustainable solutions for packaging and sent us all of those beautiful recycled paper bags for your goodie bags! I uses them for all of our ODC shipping, and they're incredibly easy to work with! Check our their Instgram @ecoenclose!

Groceries Apparel is a sustainable style + lifestyle destination for conscious fashion-forward individuals. They’re also the company we use for our Perfect white tees! Follow them @groceriesapparel.

The healthy bubbly was provided by Health-Ade Kombucha! We're addicted! If you are, check out more information or share your pics @healthade.

One of the best feelings in the world is putting on a pair of new white crisp socks. Lucky for us JawxJawshop slipped some of our socks into our goodie bags! You can follow them @jawxjawshop!

Keep your luscious locks shiny + your skin feeling bright with the powerful ingredients in The Seaweed Bath & Co's products! They sustainably hand-harvest certified organic seaweed of the coast of Maine! You can follow their story @theseaweedbathco.

We raffled off beautiful rings donated by Shiffon Co. Shiffon is more than just a jewelry brand, they aim to be supportive, powerful network for women. Follow them @shiffonco for more inspiration!

Everyone searches for that perfect pair of denim, look no more because Simply Suzette definitely has it! They are an online boutique for women looking for ethically + sustainably produced denim! See more from them @simplysuzette.

Artisanal coffee & food delivered with first-class service. That pretty much sums up Bluestone Lane! It was also the place where Dani + I first brainstormed our Calm Before The Storm event, so you know we are big fans! In your gift bags you will find some yummy granola samples from Husk Bakeshop  these goodies can be found in their cafes! Follow them @bluestonelane to see what they are up to!

Modern, sustainable and luxurious: Celsious offers a fresh and new way to "come clean" in a beautifully designed environment in Williamsburg! If you haven't checked them out you can find them at @celsious_social.

The beautiful candles decorating the space in addition to the samples in our goodie bags were provided by Keap. This candle company was created to provide consumers with a middle ground; a candle that was neither cheap and full of harsh chemicals nor overly priced. In addition to making candles that are better for our health and our pockets, Keap started as a Public Benefit Corporation to provide better access of affordable, sustainable living to people outside of the electrical grid. They’ve partnered with SolarAid to provide solar light to communities in need through their Buy a Candle, Light a Home program. 

Knours. is an innovative brand that addresses the casual link between a woman's cycle & her skin. Sounds too good to be true! We love the cute pink bags of amazing product they gave us and we hope you do too! Check them out here @knoursknows

Trying to keep healthy while on the go can be a bit tricky at times, luckily Monday Carrot has you covered with their smoothie packs! They combine science backed benefits of a plant-rich, whole-food diet with the latest findings in nutrition research to optimize results from the inside out! Check them out @mondaycarrot

All of that wine we enjoyed was donated by Parcelle Wines! They are a curated wine shop and the first retail concept from Delicious Hospitality Group, the team behind NYC restaurants (and some of our favs) Charlie Bird, Pasquale Jones, and Legacy Records! See more from them @parcellewine

RYU is an incredible clothing line created for the urban athlese that moves with you. They stand for respect and they are #BeyondTough. Check them out @ryu_apparel

Role Models MGMT is an ethical talent & modeling agency started by two models + social activists who came together to start a modeling agency. Role Models MGMT will disrupt the way we think about and see the industry! Check them out there @rolemodelsmgnt. 

Did we not have the best chairs ever?! Those were graciously donated to us by Sub Rosa. They are an independent strategy and design practice that helps organizations explore, learn and grow. Check out their Instagram @wearesubrosa.


And of course our amazing vendors:

Cameron Russell:
We are so grateful to have Cameron Russell Speak at our event, she is such a role-model in our community! Cameron put together the first event that Britt and I had ever gone to where the model activist community first began. We spoke freely about our experiences in the industry and got to meet more models in a space other than a casting. She is now head of the group, we call ourselves the Model Mafia, and we get together for events, talks, fashion shows, climate marches, etc! E-mail brittb@odmodc.com to see how you can get on our e-mail list.

FaceLove:
What looked to be THE MOST relaxing facials were provided to you by Face Love!! They made our event so much more special.  Their massages are the perfect pick-me-up during fashion week! Check their new storefront out in Flatiron @love_facelove.

Dominyka Gajauskaite:
Dominyka started her own skin care lines as a result of being sick of unfriendly products being used on her face time and time again. Her serums are our favorite. Stay in the know about @amberlightbeauty!

Summer Rayne Oakes:
Summer is definitely a jack-of-all-trades! She is literally a master in everything she does, we are so inspired by her! Her love of plants and amazing green thumb have us all asking for advice!! Check her website to discover more and definitely hit up her youtube channel.

Sinead Bovell:
Sinead is the founder and CEO of WAYE (Weekly Advice for the Young Entrepreneur), she is dedicated to building a sustainable working future for the next generation through entrepreneurship. If you haven't been to one of her talks, make sure to follow her at @sineadbovell!

Daniel Gottlieb:
We hope you were able to experience all or that Hyperice love from Mister Yoga Dan! He has developed a practice that brings together his two passions- sports and yoga- to create a full mind/body fitness for your spirit program! See more from Dan @misteryogadan.

Sandrina Bencomo:
We all know how hard it can be to take care of your health while you are running around for fashion week! Sandrina has a few tips + tricks! If you were not able to speak with her check out her website to book and appointment.

Celsious:
FINALLY doing laundry can be fun (seriously)! Celsious had filled that gap by opening up a snazzy new laundromat in Williamsburg where you can hang out, grab a coffee + do laundry with and eco-friendly approach! @celsious_social

Ode to a White Tee

Dearest Tee,

You're the first thing I put on when I wake up in the morning and you're the last thing I cuddle up to as I snuggle up in bed to you for warmth and comfort. When I found you, I couldn't believe you were the one, I had been searching my entire life for something that fit so perfectly into my life and never knew you'd be the one. You're into sustainability, a huge passion of mine and you know how to compliment me when I need it the most. You blend in when necessary and stand out amongst others when I'm trying to make a statement. You're the perfect size, the perfect weight, the perfect softness and the perfect feel. Thank you for being you and for helping me be me. I can count on you any day to make any outfit and know you'll always be there if I'm struggling deciding what to wear.  I love you so dearly.

Love always,

Britt

Everyone needs that perfect white tee...