When we talk about ‘sustainable’ or ‘ethical’ fashion, we have to talk about intersectionality. Brands must address social injustices as well as environmental issues in order to achieve the sustainability goals they have set. ‘Sustainable’ fashion involves issues like diversity and inclusivity, but they are often ignored. These topics are complex, but without them brands are simply being performative and not addressing the core issues that will make a real difference.
Intersectionality in sustainable fashion means discussing social factors as equal to environmental factors. It involves protecting people as well as the planet – people from marginalised communities, and those who suffer from the environmental consequences of fast fashion (mostly BIPOC).
We see brands including ethnic minorities in social media campaigns, but this is often performative activism. Without tackling the crux of diversity and representation, these marketing techniques are simply tokenism. This is clear when looking at who brands include on their social media versus the team that makes up the brand itself. This brings with it the topic of identity. In an article written by Celeste Scott, she discusses that in the attempt to inject diversity into the industry, the faces and voices used are usually ones that are palatable to a white audience (light-skinned/biracial).
Ethnic minority groups will struggle to find themselves represented in media, and if they are it feels tokenistic. Therefore when it comes to ethical fashion, intersectionality should be at the forefront alongside environmentalism. This means pushing boundaries and stopping the diverse ‘aesthetic,’ and truly advocating for representation throughout. If sustainable fashion does not do this, then it will have a hard time changing consumer’s minds. It needs to place inclusivity at its core and fight harder to create an intersectional industry. Scott addresses this, saying that ‘Radical inclusivity is about continually asking how we can cast the net wider, opening the space to many more walks of life. It’s about getting to a place where what we consider to be the “norm” in the fashion industry is characterized by a variety of skin tones, body types, gender expressions and ages.’
Intersectionality means constantly reviewing how we are fighting for social equality, asking the right questions, and ridding the industry of tokenism and performative activism. It means highlighting that as well as environmental issues, we need to be talking about social injustices and the importance of inclusivity from marketing to the people behind the brands we shop at.
‘We see brands including ethnic minorities in social media campaigns, but this is often performative activism. Without tackling the crux of diversity and representation, these marketing techniques are simply tokenism.’