Ambassadors on... is a new regular feature giving the young women in our network the opportunity to share their insight, opinion, and experiences on a variety of different subject matters.

In our first of the series, ambassador, Walayat, talks about the representation she wants to see in the fashion industry.

Walayat, ambassador since 2021

I have always looked around for representation. Imagine, for years, what it might be like to have opened magazines, seen fashion shows and not once seen someone who looks like you? 

Diversity isn’t something that is just about race or religion, it’s also about body shape, disability and culture. The fashion industry has a worldwide audience who look different and live individual lives, so why aren’t they inclusive of the people who follow their platforms and buy their products? 

This lack of representation affects those (young women - just like me) who watch the fashion adverts on TV, the models who walk the catwalk, and the people who consume the products they sell. And during fashion weeks across Europe and America in September 2021, it’s said that less than 50% of models were people of colour. 

All of these factors affect viewers as they question if someone who looks like them is seen as ‘beautiful’. This can leave people not loving the way their body is made - and in short, this is heartbreaking. 

The lack of diversity in this industry stretches to all corners of it. In a report released by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Textiles and Fashion in 2021, it revealed that 68% of people had witnessed or experienced discrimination in the sector. We see white people dominating this industry, as others are pushed aside because of their body image, ethnicity or beliefs. 

For people of colour who want to work in the fashion industry, this leaves them wondering if they need a certain level of recognition or prestige to get their foot in the door. Last year, I had a momentary spark of interest in working in fashion, but this quickly evaporated as I realised I had not yet seen anyone who looked like me make it.

The Girls’ Network talks a lot about ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’. It’s something that resonates with me, as I seek to see more diversity in bodies and cultures in the fashion industry. 

Change is happening. Slowly, but steadily. I see it with the rise of TikTok, an app growing rapidly in popularity. The platform has helped give people better opportunities for visibility and pathways into sectors like fashion. This is great, amazing even, but why did huge brands wait until people called them out for their lack of diversity, to start being more inclusive? It makes me wonder if they are genuine; is this just another trend?

I love fashion. I also believe in inclusivity. And that comes first. To those working in the industry, to the brands and professionals, I urge you: don’t lose the next generation of talent, don’t lose our interest, and don’t just be diverse to be on trend.


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