When’s the last time you woke up to your phone alarm, which you unrealistically turned off, and immediately got out of bed and started your day? Never. Maybe back in prehistoric times. Today, almost everyone snoozes their alarm and scrolls through social media to get their periodic dose of dopamine release. Yes, social media, a world within your phone, a potent and powerful transmitter that transmits nothing but unrealistic and unattainable standards of beauty.
To the person on the other end of the phone, be real with me for a minute. I want you to think back to the last fashion advertisement you saw. Have you ever maybe thought of what the fashion industry is trying to promote? Honestly, the first thing that comes to my mind is “misrepresentation” or even “lack of inclusivity”, as the fashion industry strongly likes to idealistically portray ‘polished’ and ‘perfect’ representation of models, better yet, a portrayal of what we all should like to be considered ‘beautiful’ or ‘attractive’. I mean, with the media promoting ‘perfect’ idealized images of what we should look like, it is quite hard to think that everything else is considered beautiful as well. Unfortunately, the way we perceive ourselves is through the perspective the fashion industry has forcefully embedded whether it is on the runway, media or advertising.
Being inclusive about diversity does not limit it to just body diversity, that is, the inclusion of all diverse body types. It also means being inclusive about diversity when it comes to disability, age, people of color, and people with visible differences. Let me tell you this, the beauty ‘ideal’ that the fashion industry is constantly reinforcing is the problem here. Sit back, grab a cup of coffee and hear me out virtual friend.
Have you ever wondered what would it be like living in a world where each and every one of us is equally represented in the media and fashion industry? The word ‘equally’ is the word that we should stress on, because the fashion industry promotes some kind of inclusivity, but as a mere tokenism I would say. What I mean by that is that the fashion industry is a show, where they tend to portray ‘diverse’ models on the runway just for the show itself. I mean, look back at the latest fashion show, the fashion industry polishes itself by including one ‘representative’ model every now and then. To add to that, a few brands believe that they are categorized as an ‘inclusive brand’ and are embracing diversity just by including one plus-sized model or an ethnic model once in a while. A round of applause to the brands that claim they ‘embrace diversity’, but is that even enough? And what about representing people with disabilities, people of color and people with visible differences??? It is sad to think that those beautiful people are left out of the picture.
Indeed, we are seeing positive changes when it comes to representing people with disabilities in the media. For instance, Gucci took a progressive step in promoting Ellie Goldstein, a model with Down syndrome, for their beauty campaign. But it is still a long way to go in creating a fair and equal representation for all. People who have skin conditions or visible differences are also misrepresented vastly in the media and fashion industry. Have you ever seen a model with Vitiligo or Alopecia on the runway? An amputee? Or a model with a prosthetic leg on a wheelchair? What about a model that represents mature women by embracing her old age and the beautiful wrinkles on her face? Instead of living in a world whereby all disabilities, bodies and differences should be embraced, celebrated, and normalized, we live in a world whereby everything ‘fake’ and ‘filtered’ is deemed to be attractive. At the end of the day, our curves, patches, or colors are part of who we are. This helps us create a unique characteristic for ourselves, so why don’t we highlight our uniqueness and embrace our differences for a change instead of hiding them?
It is crazy to think that most us aren’t represented in one way or another. The lack of representation and the portrayal of unrealistic beauty standards has a negative effect on the psychological well-being of many, as research shows that this will affect their self-esteem, confidence, body satisfaction, anxiety and more importantly lead to eating disorders. So, the real question on the tip of everyone’s tongue but not in the midst of everyone’s cocktail party conversation is: “why hasn’t the fashion industry taken a stand and applied representation?”.
When you find yourself pondering about the latter question, before you know it, you will start asking yourself questions such as: Does the fashion industry ever think of how this might affect or influence the people watching or following? Needless to say, the fashion industry has one thing in mind, ’profit’ of course. Or in other words, what is the best thing that sells?
Ultimately, us as consumers, we truly do have a voice that could be the voice of change that will break beauty stereotypes. At the end of the day, we are living in an imperfect reality, but we are all imperfectly perfect and are beautiful despite our imperfections. Thus, we deserve to be represented.
Let me bring this to an end with a quote by Mahatma Gandhi: “Our ability to reach unity in diversity will be the beauty and the test of our civilization”.
So will the fashion industry undergo that test to try and achieve diversity?