As observed by Mintel’s Trend Serving the Underserved, modern consumers live in more ethnically and culturally diverse societies with minority groups no longer sidelined, disenfranchised or overlooked. While the fashion sector has been slow to take this on board, a shift is gradually occurring. Several fashion campaigns actively challenge the biased images we often see in adverts by showcasing modern women of different races, colours, sizes and ages. However, the fashion industry needs to do more to show that it is promoting greater ethnic diversity, not just through campaigns, but also through the products sold.

Promoting diversity in fashion

A new pro-diversity footwear brand, Kahmune, is set to launch nude shoes to match every skin colour. It plans to start by selling 10 different shades of nude shoes in March 2017, ranging from the fairest to the darkest skin tone. This is in direct contrast with most footwear retailers, which tend to only offer nude shoes in beige, cream and tan.

Kahmune’s message is that diversity matters and that it wants to reflect “the pride you have for the skin that you are in” through its new shoe collections. The shoes will initially come in three different styles including flat pumps, block-heeled sandals and court shoes with slim heels, but further ranges will be introduced in summer 2017.

Women struggle to find make-up to match their skin tone

The brand goes one step further by presenting each shoe on its website next to matching foundations from several beauty brands, thereby acknowledging the complexities women of different ethnicities face trying to find make-up that perfectly matches their skin tone. The UK has a growing ethnic population, with young adults the most likely to have mixed heritage. Despite this, Mintel data shows that almost a third of women say that the colour not matching their skin tone is one of the biggest frustrations when using or wearing make-up. Women aged 16-24 are even more likely to struggle to find products in the right shade for their skin. Like fashion, beauty is also under scrutiny. Brands in the beauty sector have been focusing more on improving the diversity of ethnic representation in their ad campaigns; nevertheless our research demonstrates that this doesn’t always translate into the actual products being sold.

Rebels with a cause

We are seeing a shift occurring with more brands aligning themselves with ethical or political causes. Uniqlo, for example, is one of the few large retailers to have begun selling items including kebaya and hijabs in 2016. Overall, there is scope for more mainstream fashion retailers to sell clothing, footwear and accessories for women of all skin tones, creeds and beliefs. Given that half of Millennials – who are the main fashion buyers – are the most likely to choose a brand based on their ethics, young fashion retailers could benefit commercially from embracing causes that interest their customers.

Tamara Sender is Senior Fashion Analyst at Mintel. She researches and writes Mintel’s reports on all aspects of the UK clothing market. Before joining Mintel in 2010, Tamara worked as a news reporter at William Reed Business Media with particular emphasis on retail and leisure markets. As a multi-lingual journalist, Tamara has written for several national and international titles in both the UK and Latin America.

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