Modern social movements have changed just about every industry in incredible ways, yet few industries have been as dramatically transformed as fashion. Representation among races, ethnicities, genders, and sexual orientations is something the fashion industry had always lacked until recently. Movements like #MeToo, modern feminism, and the various other social campaigns culminated by the millennial and Gen Z generations have forced fashion’s hand. They have made way for new faces in an industry that, while still lacking, has made undeniable strides in the right direction of representation. Such a challenge to the industry’s culture has made way for voices and ideas that would otherwise never have been heard, and this newfound empowerment is all thanks to the goliath of influence that is social media.
While social media users were a large part of the path toward industry change, it also took the commitment of some better-known names to truly push the old ways over the edge. A truly stand-up attitude from celebrities is a rarity these days, and it’s even tougher to find ones that genuinely care about the ideas they preach. However, these women truly took the fashion revolution to heart, and are in many ways to thank for the inclusivity that is finally stemming its way throughout modern fashion.
Soon after the former first lady’s husband, Barack Obama, became President of the United States, Mrs. Michelle Obama used her platform and presence to focus on and introduce American made brands that exhibited the true diversity working behind the creativity of fashion. She wore names such as Maria Cornejo, Jason Wu, and Narciso Rodriquez. These are just a few of her most prolific brands, but she also made sure to feature more accessible wear, such as J. Crew, as well as occasionally flash higher end brands like Balenciaga and Givenchy.
Xenophobia is a horrific ideology that unfortunately still plagues our country today, making the influence of women like Halima Aden all the more important and impactful. A Somali American model, Aden lived in a refugee community in Minneapolis, Minnesota, which led to her running for Miss Minnesota. This kicked off her career that then eventually landed her on Sports Illustrated, donning a hijab and burkini as a symbol of strength and hope against growing xenophobia in the U.S. and abroad. Her success has inspired other Muslim women to make their way into the industry as well, inspiring names such as Mariah Idrissi and Sara Iftikhar.
Jillian Mercado, Mama Cax, and Chelsea Werner
While the segment makes up more than a quarter of the U.S. population, disabled Americans are one of, if not the least represented group in any industry, especially fashion. The most recent move by the industry to finally be inclusive of this group is Teen Vogue, which showed Jillian Mercado, Mama Cax, and Chelsea Werner on the cover. These women each have unique physical features that only added to their individuality and beauty in their new light. Disability rights activists, these models themselves, and the greater population were the driving force behind giving these women the strength to show the world their too often forgotten beauty, and the reason the industry finally heard the call to give these women the same limelight of other models.
Diversity in an industry as popular, influential, and revered as fashion is an absolute necessity for a level of practical social sense to be attained. Appealing to just one demographic is not only morally wrong but makes no sense for business in the modern world. Consumers and creators alike have finally begun to realize the innovation and beauty that comes from an industry that allows everyone to be involved. The business of fashion is far from perfect in its journey toward being truly representative of its consumers and the world surrounding it. However, the aforementioned women, their fans, and champions of change in fashion and beyond have begun paving the way for an incredibly promising, diverse, and beautiful future for fashion.