Prada introduces diversity council co-chaired by Ava DuVernay to deal with racism

The fashion world has recently been making headlines for all the wrong reasons with a spate of problematic incidents which range from cultural insensitivity to socially offensive designs.  Luxury brand, Prada, in the quest to stay out of trouble, has now decided to take steps towards avoiding further faux pas.

Fashion has long being known to have a problem when it comes to diversity.  But lately, fashion brands seem to have upped the ante when it comes to making serious faux pas.

Late last year, there was Dolce & Gabbana’s racist campaign which led to the fashion house cancelling their Shanghai Fashion Show. That was followed by Prada’s monkey bag charm that evoked blackface imagery. Then Gucci decided to literally be inspired by blackface with their shoe collaboration with Katy Perry and subsequently, with their blackface sweater costing over R12 000.

So, in a bid to deal with fashion’s racism/ignorance/confusion (choose an option), Italian fashion brand, Prada has announced that they are creating a Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council. The council will be co-chaired by sculptor and activist Theaster Gates with filmmaker Ava DuVernay.

In a press statement, Prada stated that the aim of the council is “to elevate voices of color within the company and the fashion industry at-large.” The council will give the fashion label in-house advice during some of their processes. Prada’s CEO and Lead Creative, Miucchia Prada also hopes that the council will not only help the company, but its individual workers as well.

Additionally, the company will sponsor scholarships and training programs worldwide, while spearheading internships and apprenticeship initiatives in diverse communities.

While Prada should be commended for taking an initiative and tackling this prevailing problem in fashion, it also makes one wonder if Prada, and other brands, simply don’t have a diverse enough workforce. Surely if there was more representation in their key positions, this would go a long way in preventing these gaffes.

As Burberry showed this week with their noose sweater (what is with sweaters?), the problem isn’t just racism, but a lack of sensitivity to all kinds of issues. A diverse workforce would hopefully recognise a potential backlash from various sectors of society and hopefully prevent further problematic products and campaigns going to market.

While initiatives like the Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council are needed, we would also advise fashion houses to simply hire a more diverse workforce in general. This might help with not only avoiding all kinds of problems, but also with bringing fresh blood that can bring new creative ideas. Clearly they need them, because they seem to have run out of (appropriate) inspiration.

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