Diversity in Fashion

Diversity in Fashion

January 2, 2024
5 min read

Embracing diversity is fast becoming a non-negotiable in the fashion industry. Mintel’s research in 2022 revealed that 41% of Gen Zers favour brands that represent their identity. This underlines the pull for brands, particularly those advertising to a younger demographic, to do better in representing their customers. Historically, fashion brands have been comfortable displaying their creations on predominantly young, white models who conformed to strict body measurements. However, in response to feedback and evolving societal norms, numerous brands now recognise that a sweeping transformation is needed.

The first brand that will likely come to mind when discussing diversity is SKIMS. Founded in 2019, SKIMS self-professed goal is to ‘provide solutions for everybody’. Their shapewear fits all body types and is available to all skin tones. Additionally, in May 2022, they released an accessible range, designed with convenience and mobility in mind. The importance of brands embracing this diversity has never been more paramount. They need to recognise that diversity expectations are developing and it’s no longer enough to just be size inclusive.

Accessibility is Fashion

In our UK 2022 Inclusivity and Diversity in Fashion study, an overwhelming majority of respondents agreed that fashion should normalise all body types, including those with disabilities. 22% of the UK population is identified as having a disability according to the most recent Family Resources Survey. Astonishingly, this significant portion of the population is largely overlooked by the fashion industry, a fact acknowledged by over half of UK shoppers. Travelling across the Channel, we found in our German Inclusivity and Diversity in Fashion Report that fashion and beauty retailer, Zalando, has an impressive accessible range that should act as a model for other brands. Their categories included sensory-friendly fabrics, fits for comfortable wheelchair use and shoes designed for prostheses.

Diversity is Fashion

The need to consider all body types in fashion design extends to ethnic minorities in the UK. Over 40% of respondents confirmed they struggle to find items in their size and many said they can’t picture themselves in advertised clothes because of the lack of diversity amongst the models. In our 2023 Fashion Technology and Innovation report, we found that many women feel that more robust size recommendation tools, like virtual try-ons, would improve their shopping experience. Additionally, choose my model tools that allow shoppers to select a model that reflects their body type and skin tone have been very popular. This emphasises an opportunity for brands to capitalise on using the latest digital technologies including AI, AR or virtual reality to try clothes to help solve consumer’s dilemmas with sizing inconsistencies.

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Additionally, many consumers from ethnic minorities in the UK have reported a struggle to find outfits that align with their religious and cultural values. In response to this, some online retailers, such as ASOS and Boohoo, have released modest clothing ranges that include opaque fabrics, longer sleeve and hemline lengths and less figure-hugging designs.

To further celebrate diversity in fashion, ASOS partnered with The Fashion Minority Report in 2023 for their ‘Scale Up’ initiative. This initiative aims to uplift UK-based ethnic minority-owned brands. Successful participants not only receive an exclusive ASOS 2024 collection but also a chance to pitch for up to £20,000 in funding to support their growth. In September 2023, the two winners were announced: Dalapo, the owner of Taideux, specialises in ethically sourced designs tailored for women with fuller busts, and Isabelle Pennington-Edmead, celebrating her mixed heritage with bright, Caribbean Kittian-inspired clothing.

Ageing is Fashion

Diversity in fashion encompasses age inclusivity. Three in ten women aged 55+ reported finding it difficult to find clothing that suited their age. The fashion industry as a whole needs to catch up when it comes to designing stylish pieces for older women which, considering that older consumers exhibit more brand loyalty, is certainly a missed opportunity. One stand-out fashion brand battling ageism is The Bias Cut. In response to a recent ageist TikTok filter, they launched the #ILookMyAge campaign, aimed at challenging narrow-minded perceptions of ageing and celebrating its individuality and beauty. With their age-diverse models and modern pieces focused on women’s changing bodies, The Bias Cut is pioneering age inclusivity.

Additionally, some brands have innovated new ways to make clothing more comfortable for women experiencing menopause. Primark, for example, boasts a menopause nightwear range that features lightweight, temperature-controlled fabrics designed to alleviate hot flushes. This signals an opening for fashion retailers to create specifically designed garments to accommodate women experiencing body changes to help them feel more comfortable and confident in their bodies, in addition to establishing customer loyalty.

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UK Fashion brands are making moves to embrace diversity and inclusivity but big changes still need to be made. This is particularly true for size recommendation tools where differing technologies can become complicated and confusing, particularly when users need to add lots of body measurements. Many consumers, particularly younger people, are open to trying augmented reality virtual try-ons but currently, too many fashion brands are behind on creating something that performs for both consumers and retailers.

Looking to the future, more brands will likely respond to growing consumer demand to see much more representation across the fashion industry. This includes exciting trends in more accessible, age-specific, ethnically diverse and size-inclusive fashion ranges, as the outdated rhetoric of exclusion quickly becomes unacceptable. 

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