Shaded: The 9 best and worst High Street Retailers for Diversity In Fashion 🕶️🕶️
October 7, 2019/
DIVERSITY: Noun /daɪˈvɜː(r)səti/ – The state of being diverse.
DIVERSE: Adjective /dʌɪˈvəːs,ˈdʌɪvəːs/ – Showing a great deal of variety; very different.
It’s something that’s so incredibly important, but unfortunately, in retail, it’s often forgotten about… or worse, totally ignored. Growing up, the lack of women who looked like me in the media was definitely something I noticed, but becoming a blogger in the past year has really opened my eyes to just how far the fashion industry has to go with inclusivity and diversity. As much as I love blogging, I’d be lying if I said it hasn’t been a little discouraging seeing just how uninclusive the blogging sphere can be… sigh.
I actually unfollowed one of my favourite high street brands on Instagram a while back, because I got so tired of going on their page and seeing pictures of the same handful of influencers with exactly the same aesthetic being constantly featured in reposts, paid sponsorships and gifted posts. As a microblogger, I’m perfectly aware that it makes sense economically to feature influencers with the highest potential reach- that means paying the ones with the most followers to promote your products… But a lot of retailers seem to completely disregard the fact there are plenty of popular influencers in different shades, sizes and stages of able-bodiedness who could promote their brands to the max.
I’ve compiled a list of the best and worst retailers in terms of diversity to call out the ones who seem to be suffering from a little case of diversity amnesia, and to shout out those who have read up on the importance of diversity, and pass with flying colours (and shapes and sizes etc.) time and time again. So here goes…
Sure, they can be a little on the pricey side, but when it comes to diversity, you really can’t fault these guys. As well as having an aesthetically diverse feed, they also work with a wide range of influencers, including plus-size bloggers,women of colour and people with disabilities, and their #TOGETHER campaign featured a wide range of models, helping to challenge the fashion industry’s perception of how beauty is defined. Shout out to them for being so inclusive and reminding us what the real world looks like!
The retail definition of an Insta baddie slay, Missguided are all about encouraging women to be confident in themselves, and we’re all totally here for that. They first got our attention when they revolutionised the fashion industry but not airbrushing their models’ stretch marks back in 2017, and since then they’ve gone on to use normalise hip dips too! Their marketing campaigns often feature women of every shape, size and ethnicity looking super fierce, plus, they showcase perceived flaws in a way that’s… well, flawless. Their #LOVETHYSELF campaign is a classic example of what it means to be a woman- loving yourself inside and out and believing that you’re strong, powerful and capable while doing it.
As the UK’s favourite affordable fashion retailer, Primark take an active role in diverse influencer marketing. Take a look at the ‘back to uni’ video on their IGTV– it quite literally is the picture of diversity. Their feed does comprise mainly of professional studio shots, but when they do feature influencers, it’s a pretty mixed bag. From black gals and curvy gals to everything in-between, they really do make sure there’s space for everyone, plus, they’re one of the few brands who aren’t scared to feature women with their natural hair, rather than just promoting the acceptable face of diverse beauty (i.e. black… with a huge dash of eurocentric). They’re not just about the clothes though- @primark.beauty‘s killin’ it on the make-up side of things, and best of all, they’re proud flyers of the diversity flag too!
M&S is one of those brands that’s massively underrated when it comes to style- I’ve heard people write them off as a ‘granny shop’ before, but seriously, their AW19/20 boot collection, in particular, is to-die-for, and more importantly, their Insta feed is a classic example of diversity done right. Their #DressingTheNation campaign features professionals, homemakers and businesswomen, whose differences aren’t just job-related; M&S recognises that not only are women’s lives totally different from each-others’, but we all look totally different too! Along with their official marketing campaigns, they often showcase influencers of all ages, genders and ethnicities, from their M&S insiders to the bloggers in their paid partnerships. Would love to see them work more with some bloggers with disabilities, plus-side ladies and even hijabi women, but overall, I think they’re doing a pretty good job!
Call me crazy, but I’m starting to think there’s some magic in those abbreviated names- H&M really give M&S a run for their money when it comes to diversity. Sure, they have been the subject of some race-related controversy of late (let’s not get into ‘monkey-gate’ and ‘messy hair-gate’ today), but the good thing about H&M is they’re good at throwing shade… in the best possible way. What do I mean? Their Instagram is a kaleidoscope of colour, and no, I’m not referring to the clothes; I’m talking about the fact that they don’t shy away from featuring women of allcolours. Not being a brand to focus on the acceptable shades of beauty, they’re all about showcasing all the hottest flavours; from pumpkin spiced lattes and smooth hot chocolates to the richest black coffees. Top tip for them? Maybe be a little more sensitive with marketing relating to potential race and colourism issues, but overall? Not too shabby.
With their plus-size, tall and petite ranges, Boohoo sure cater to a wide range of women, but from scrolling through their Instagram feed, you’d probably never guess it. It’s all poppin’, pretty and very pink, but that’s just it- everything about their influencers’ aesthetics, even right down to their poses is all very ‘samey’ and a little too picture-perfect. They do give try their hand at diversity by throwing the occasional woman of colour or plus-size model into the mix, but even then, their choices of influencers are all very ‘safe’. There’s nothing to really challenge the perception of beauty as we know it; no big bellies; no scars; no stretch marks, and even their attempts to diversify their feed kinda seem like an afterthought. I’ll give them a 5/10 for effort, and to be honest, their actual execution of diverse marketing isn’t any better.
Ah, our fashionable fruity friends… I’ll give it to them- they do feature people of colour from time-to-time, but a quick glance at Mango’s feed will let you know that their aesthetic is very much slim, and/or fair-skinned. Yes, they also have a page dedicated to their plus-size line Violeta, but I kind of wish they didn’t feel the need to create a whole separate page for plus-size women. Is it really diversity if your social media marketing creates a totally unnecessary ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ divide? I’m don’t think so personally, but I do appreciate that they have, at least on some level considered how to be more diverse. How to improve? Maybe make your main page (y’know, the one with 10.7 million followers?) more inclusive, rather than trying to be inclusive with a separate platform and ending up being… uninclusive. Just a thought. *Shrugs*
I can’t even lie- New Look are still very much my faves for online shopping, but on diversity terms? Eh. I’ll give them a half mark as they have started making a little more effort with the diversity thing of late, but rewind to a few months back and this simply wasn’t the case. They’ve always been pretty diverse on the size side of things, but even their plus and mid-size bloggers tend to have pretty much the same aesthetic as their ‘regular’ (a.k.a. slim) influencers phenotypically. With celeb collabs, they will dip their toes in the water… but still play it safe with skin tone, hair texture, and even hair colour. In recent months, I have seen a few women of colour featured on their feed, but since it’s taken them so long, I do wonder if it’s just a case of ‘too little, too late’. Only time will tell whether their attempt to diversify their brand has any staying power but if they’re in it for the long-haul, I’d love to see a wider range of influencers in every sense. In case they missed the memo, individuality is the new uniform in the fashion sphere, and this brand sure has a lot of catching up to do.
With their gold plated jewellery and trendy accessories, Orelia is the perfect example of a stylish, minimalist brand- it’s just a shame that they demonstrate the very same minimalism on the diversification front. Scrolling right back on their feed to January 2018, there are just two people of colour, while plus-size women and other women who deviate from the fashion world’s ‘norm’ don’t even get a look-in. Okay, so their feed is very cohesive and I get that they’re going for a ‘clean and simple’ aesthetic, but someone seriously needs to let them know their vibe would be equally clean and simple if they injected some colour into their influencer choices, at the very least. Their blatant disregard of diverse marketing is so disappointing that they win the very top prize on this one. #SorryNotSorry
Diversity score: 1/10
And there you have it- a little eye-opening summary of what diversity does and doesn’t look like on the High Street.
Now for some real-talk: To those of you retailers who are committed to making diversity a normality in the fashion world, thank you- please keep it up. And to the ones who haven’t even given it a passing thought? You might wanna start… it is 2019 after all…