Diversity in fashion: Voices from the industry

Hear directly from fashion students, emerging designers, and industry leaders about their experiences in the US fashion industry—and their ideas for creating more inclusive workplaces.

Fashion is a vibrant, exciting industry that employs more than a million people across the United States and attracts many aspiring designers and professionals. But certain groups of talented individuals—in particular, people of color—struggle to break into the industry, and those who manage to get in don’t often feel welcome. A substantive underrepresentation of diverse talent begins in fashion schools and internships and continues throughout all levels into the highest echelons of influence and leadership.

We listened to the stories of diverse fashion students and professionals as part of our research for the State of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in Fashion report, a February 2021 report by PVH Corp. and the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA). In addition to surveying more than 1,000 employees across 41 companies, we conducted 20 stakeholder interviews and three focus groups with students and emerging designers.

The focus groups yielded valuable insights, and we were struck by the candor and poignancy of participants’ stories. We now invite you to listen to their voices. In this multimedia collection, we present a selection of powerful testimonies from fashion students and emerging designers. They speak with honesty and passion. For example, one Black designer told us, “It gets really frustrating because it’s only when the White elder gods of fashion say, ‘We’re going to listen to your story, and that’s important now,’ is it important.” These testimonies vividly bring to life our survey findings, some of which appear in this collection as data visualizations, on topics such as biased behavior and unfair hiring practices.

“You get into these classrooms, and these professors, who are White, act like they’ve never seen a Black person in their life.”

Diverse students, designers, and employees describe their experiences in the fashion industry.

Diverse students, designers, and employees describe their experiences in the fashion industry.
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Interview

‘Creativity would skyrocket’: How diversity could transform fashion

– CaSandra Diggs, president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, shares her views on how the fashion industry can give diverse talent more visibility, voice, and agency.
Interview

‘The fashion industry should be as diverse as its consumers’: A PVH perspective

– Lance LaVergne, chief diversity officer of PVH Corp., discusses how fashion companies can attract young people and help emerging designers—and what it will take to disrupt the status quo.

“The issues of inequity that fashion faces are systemic, and change will need to happen within the broader ecosystem.”

The CFDA/PVH report provides a starting list of actions that individuals, companies, and the industry can take to address the root causes of inequity.

The CFDA/PVH report provides a starting list of actions that individuals, companies, and the industry can take to address the root causes of inequity.
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We also interviewed two of the report’s key stakeholders: CaSandra Diggs, president of the CFDA, and Lance LaVergne, chief diversity officer of PVH. They shared their insights into areas of opportunity—including awareness, access, and belonging—and actions that organizations and individuals can take to bring about a more diverse fashion industry.

Although our research was focused on the US market, the levers for change and the interventions detailed in the CFDA/PVH report can be effective anywhere in the world. We see this work as the beginning of a series of crucial steps toward lasting change in the fashion industry. We are confident that a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive fashion industry is within reach—but it will take individuals, companies, and other institutions in the fashion ecosystem all doing their part.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Genevieve Ang is a consultant in McKinsey’s New York office, Pamela Brown is a partner in the New Jersey office, Tiffany Burns is a partner in the Atlanta office, and Stacey Haas is a partner in the Detroit office.

The authors wish to thank Leonie Badger, Stefon Burns, and Emily Gerstell for their contributions to the research.


McKinsey Global Publishing acknowledges the many contributors who collaborated on this multimedia collection, including Mike Borruso, Nicole Esquerre, Justine Jablonska, Stephen Landau, Philip Mathew, Darshan Mehta, Janet Michaud, Charmaine Rice, Jonathon Rivait, Katie Shearer, Dan Spector, Monica Toriello, and Nathan Wilson.

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