Paris, France – During Haute Couture week, Imran meets Samira Nasr, and they have good reason to celebrate. During global shutdowns amid pandemic, Samira became the first woman of color to lead Harper’s Bazaar in the 154-year history of the American magazine.
Yet amidst the joy come difficult reflections on racism and belonging to fashion. Samira explains that she is committed to using her position of influence to raise marginalized voices.
“This role isn’t about ‘me’. It’s about ‘us’. It’s about the community that I can bring together, share this platform, raise those voices and bring them with me. So it’s about the “We.” But I believe we all have a responsibility. You walk through the door and each of us has a responsibility to look back… and to reach out and attract someone with you.
It sets off a personal journey for Imran, an Ismaili Muslim of Indian descent and East African descent who was once a fashionable outsider himself. It sets out to explore a crucial question: “How can a company founded on exclusivity open its doors to everyone?”
Back in London, he catches up with Sinéad Burke, who refuses to be excluded, despite fashion’s poor record in welcoming disabled people. Sinéad and Imran reflect on her journey in fashion that began at BoF VOICES in 2017, when she faced creative and business leaders in fashion, calling them to deep-rooted behaviors. Today, she advises the big luxury brands on common sense: what company would deliberately ignore the collective purchasing power of 15% of the world’s population?
Sinéad reveals that his quest has changed in recent years. In addition to wanting to see inclusive products, she wants fashion companies to start with who and how they hire. “Five years ago, if you had asked me what the success was, I would have answered the availability of clothes. My vision has widened. I really think product availability is important, but I think it’s more important that we hire people with disabilities in these companies.
Imran and Sinéad set out to meet June Sarpong and Jamie Gill, both of whom have been appointed non-executive directors of the British Fashion Council following the Black Lives Matter protests over the murder of George Floyd. June, a famous British TV broadcaster and Jamie, managing director of Roksanda, point out that there is a real lack of diversity behind the scenes in fashion and provide advice to industry leaders on how to welcome fashion designers. people from all walks of life.
“The first thing to do is connect with the most disenfranchised group in your organization and ask them what their experiences are with your organization. This will tell you all about your culture, ”explains June.
“We have to do something visually, projecting to the outside that we are welcoming,” adds Jamie. “On the operational side, [we need to show] how does it feel to be the operations director of a fashion company … I think we need to work on this as a collective. “
Things take an uncomfortable turn when Sinéad’s refusal to be treated any differently leads to his own unease with a model made in his image. She finds the process disturbing because her body shape is so different from everyone else in the North London factory, then concludes, triumphantly, that there is room for all of us.
“My model is a composite of me. My bumps. My bumps, my curves … When I first saw the model in person I was quite worried about it, as he did not look like any of the models I had seen … But I didn’t am not uncomfortable with me. It’s the world that makes me feel like I don’t conform to everything else. And in fact, this discomfort proves the importance of it.
Imran’s journey gives rise to deep reflection on representation. But the answer to the central question is clear: belonging is good business.
“The BoF Show with Imran Amed,” an immersive video series streaming on Bloomberg Quicktake, airs Thursdays at 9:00 p.m. New York time and available for viewing on demand.
Discover the first six episodes here and stay tuned for bi-weekly episode launches.
Why some black founders are uncomfortable with fashion diversity initiatives
Retailers are committed to acting on diversity. Delivery turns out to be more elusive.
When your corporate diversity strategy isn’t enough
How Fashion and Beauty Can Better Interact with Black Business