The idea of diversity envelops acceptance,respect and a profound understanding that every individual is unique. Such differences can include ethnicity,gender,sexuality, age, physical (in)ability, financial status, religion and political stances as well as others. Being in an inclusive environment is to move past tolerance of each other and truly embrace the beauty that is individuality in a safe, positive and encouraging environment.
Diversity is important because our country, workplaces, and schools consist of a wide variety of unique and different people. In the fashion industry to maximize exposure of a brand and its products it is important to target as many clients as possible. To create products that entice an assortment of people, a diverse group of collaborators is fundamentally necessary. Paola Colombo, SVP Managing Director at R/GA San Francisco, explains why she believes diversity is crucial in the design industry.
“Diversity is a reflection of culture which influences how we live, how we communicate, what we need, which in turn influences the work we do as agents between our clients and the people they want to reach. As an agency expected to deliver innovation, we cannot create innovative work if our teams are homogeneous.” (Teixeira, 2017)As designers and artists we spend most of our day imagining and creating products that we hope evokes emotion and effects the consumer’s relationship with the world around them. We hope to build something unique, something that has not been offered before. In an industry as competitive as fashion this is a must. In design we are constantly targeting as much audience as possible. We follow trends to see what the majority is interested in, while simultaneously breaking those trends to create new ones. In order for ideas to be unique, each individual in the team must also bring something diverse to the table.
The exchange of a variety of ideas and perspectives not only makes problem solving more effective but also connects a team. When students/employees are exposed to new cultures, ideas and perspectives it helps each person intellectually reach out to other members in their community .(17-18, Dike,2013)Coming from a multicultural family, I was taught at a very young age to accept people’s differences as well as my own. As a child I always felt it was necessary to express myself and be proud of these differences. In my very small town of 4000 this was not an easy thing to do. There were only a handful of people I found relatable and at times felt out of place.
I was made fun of for my hair, the way I spoke, the food I ate and the way I dressed. I never felt welcomed and able to contribute my ideas in a classroom discussion because my experiences were so different from the majority of my peers. I never felt pressure to conform, but I always wished I was surrounded by people who at least understood why I was different.
A survey conducted in 2014 suggests that approximately 86% of professional designers are Caucasian (Carroll, 2014). Lack of diverse leadership roles in the classroom, workplace and community has lead to apathy, discrimination and insensitivity. When individuals feel like their ideas are not valued due to lack of representation, it is often common for productivity levels to drop (Dike,2013). Moving to a bigger, more diverse town for highschool made all the difference. Although there were many people who liked the same things I did, there were various unique groups of people as well. Diversity as a whole was taught about in class and students were encouraged to talk about their experiences no matter how different they may be.
For culminating projects we were encouraged to work with peers we had never worked with before. This made sure every team was unique. Every team member had individual ideas based on their experiences, and this is what made amazing group collaborations.At Ryerson, I want to take that same energy with me. I want to connect with my peers and professors and celebrate their differences.
In the fashion industry now more than ever I think it is important to redefine what is “normal”. Homogeneity in all aspects whether it be the individual designers, the products being made or the models showcasing the product is unacceptable. As designers we need to put ourselves in the potential consumer’s shoes. Every individual should be able to look at a product or career without fear that it is not for them, simply because of their ethnicity, sexuality, body type, culture etc. Fashion is for everyone. I believe that every individual’s opinion should be heard because even if I do not agree with it, there will always be something to learn.With an optimistic and accepting mindset, anything is possible.
While studying fashion at Ryerson my goal would be to consistently apply my creativity and distinctive ideas to the work I produce. I want to challenge and be challenged by people who view concepts in different ways than I do. Individuality is strength and I will use that to my advantage. I will surround myself with unique, hardworking and open minded colleagues who are willing to share their perspectives and experiences with me, no matter how diverse they are.