Earlier this year, The Business of Fashion released an opinion editorial on the lack of black fashion designers. The article cited that black design talent “consistently remains… marginalised [sic] and all too often plagued by systemic employment discrimination”. It was highlighted that especially in luxury fashion brands, talented black designers are “seldom equitably afforded opportunities to attain senior designer, design director, creative director…[positions]”.
As one of the few black creatives in a leadership position for a luxury brand, Olivier Rousteing has no choice but to make unorthodox moves in the fashion industry. Since becoming the creative director of French fashion house Balmain, Rousteing has moved away from the elitist tendencies of the industry. He was one of the first designers to draw on the influence of hip-hop music artists and influencers. He also advocated for racial diversity at a time when no one else in the industry cared to make changes.
Rousteing has given a personal touch to everything he does and he is unapologetic. In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, he spoke more to being authentic in the industry. Here are some of our takeaways:
- Fashion by necessity needs to be exclusive. That is, designers want consumers to aspire to attain the clothing in some way. However, Rousteing argues that while creating this “dream world” consumers need to be able to see themselves in that vision. Thus, inclusivity is key.
- Diversity is a trendy word that a lot of fashion brands use today. While it gives the appearance of inclusivity, Rousteing warns us otherwise. When he started his position as creative director in 2011, many critics told him that his take on diversity cheapened the fashion industry. Many of those brands are now using the term diversity in their own labels to keep up with its trendiness. It is important to be discerning of this word and really question how fashion brands use it in their marketing, hiring practices, and so on.
The designer ended his interview with some notes on the future of the fashion industry. He explored that the industry is in a transition stage. The transition towards embracing creativity and diversity will not be accepted by everyone. However, he suggests that fashion houses will have to rethink their professional codes and reframe their future goals if they are going to continue to be successful.