Why your Black Fashion Influencer Favorites aren’t at the Luxury Fashion Shows – Fashion Steele NYC

Why your Black Fashion Influencer Favorites aren’t at the Luxury Fashion Shows – Fashion Steele NYC


I’ve been in the fashion industry as a blogger for 14 years. I started this blog you’re reading right now in 2010 to document my style and fashion events in New York City. I even ran the first ever Fashion Bloggers Meetup Group in New York for a few years and spent that time connecting bloggers with brands. I also started attending New York Fashion Week around that time and a few short years later did my first Milan Fashion Week as well as Paris Fashion Week. Back then, the only person I’d run into that I knew was Claire of Fashion Bomb Daily. Things have certainly changed over the last decade for the better. I love that there are so much more of US representing at Fashion Weeks and putting our own spin on the knowledge we gain from attending the shows and getting that information out to our audiences. For me, my means of deciphering that is through blog posts, YouTube videos and social media commentary. But in the 14 years I’ve been covering Fashion Month, I have never been invited to a luxury show and neither have most of my peers that are and have been making waves in the fashion space. Milan Fashion Week seems to be a little easier to crack and more accepting of Black folk, perhaps even more so than New York. Luxury fashion brands have not embraced Black fashion influencers and more specifically Black presenting fashion influencers. Now when I say luxury, I’m talking specifically about the MAJOR players when you think of luxury brands that always have fashion shows in their respective cities from New York to Paris. There are a few different reason’s why I think this is the case so let’s delve into a few of my educated guesses and feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

PUBLIC RELATIONS PROBLEMS

If a brand has in house public relations which most luxury brands do, the chances are they fall into 2 categories: they are relatively young or are super seasoned and been with the brand for years. Now the relatively younger women in PR are inviting the women they follow, the women they watch and the women they want to be. Which usually means women who look like them. I have a wide audience but my audience is made up of mostly Black women and it’s been shown that non people of color most often then not only follow people who look like them, versus people of color who follow, watch and subscribe to any race. This became very apparent to me during the Black Lives Matter Movement when White creators were asking for recommendations of Black creators to follow and some White YouTubers even admitted to not knowing Black people even watched their videos. White women in the PR space don’t know the impact of Black fashion influencers simply because they don’t know or follow many, if any. Then there’s the latter, the seasoned women in PR who invite the same people they always invite, because it requires little work. They invite who’s grandfathered in because it’s always been that way and they have connections from so many seasons of shows. They usually have a No New Friends mentality and that goes for the very large PR companies that are hired by luxury brands as well to handle their fashion shows. It also seems that the few people of color with some power at these PR companies, aren’t shaking the table in favor of more diverse invitees either. Now of course they are going to invite the journalists, the buyers and high spenders of the brand, but I’m speaking specifically to the influencers they invite to the shows.

DIVERSITY, EQUITY & INCLUSION IS OVER

If you don’t have your ear to the ground in the fashion industry or any industry for that matter, you may not have noticed that Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is over. DEI departments sprang up in all fields from technology to fashion following the murder of George Floyd and the rise of the Black Lives Matter Movement. Brands, especially fashion brands, were being called out left and right for their lack of diversity and ultimately shamed into doing better. Many of these brands posted Black Squares on Instagram on #BlackOutTuesday to express solidarity with Black people and as a sign that things were going to change and they did. Things seemed to get better for a while with more diverse advertising, more Black Owned businesses being exposed and put on bigger platforms and more DEI departments to handle diversity issues for brands. When there are no Black PR people, then of course there’s going to be a lack of representation of who is invited. It’s a trickle down effect. Personally speaking, 2020-2022 were my most profitable years as full time content creator and I know some of that was attributed to brands attempting making changes and hiring more creators of color. But as we slowly came out of the pandemic, things changed for the worse. 2023 was quiet and 2024 is silent. In fact, this Black History Month was the quietest Black History Month I’ve ever experienced, in regards to work in the content creator space and even with brands activating to promote the month. Even prior to 2020 it was never this quiet. In 2023 Google and Meta make cuts to their DEI departments. Apple, Gucci, Uber, Zoom, Pinterest have all had several Diversity Officers who have quit after just a year or so since 2020. I’ve even heard of companies who implemented Juneteenth as a holiday only to turn around and asks employees to observe the holiday by using a vacation day. Perhaps the luxury fashion industry no longer feels the need to be diverse or inclusionary. The shame has worn off and fashion is back to exclusivity as usual.

BRAND IMAGE

Brand image is also at play when it comes to who is invited and who is not. Luxury fashion brands have a very specific look and most times Black presenting women aren’t it unless they are a famous actresses or singers. Now I can specifically speak for myself when I say that I’ve been paid by tons of fashion brands and some of them show at fashion weeks. And even though I have a relationship with that brand and have been paid by that brand, I’ve never been invited to a show. Now, I’m not sure what diversity quota brands have to meet when working with Black contractors and/or Black businesses but I know there is a quota because I’ve had to fill out minority business paperwork forms for a few brands over the years. And they no doubt have to claim what percentage of business was done with a minority business. This leads me to believe that I’m simply filling a quota and I’m to be seen (by my audience for the purpose of sales) but that I don’t actually represent what that brand sees as their customer or someone who is fit to represent them in public. Let’s face it, in fashion, especially luxury fashion, the standard of beauty hasn’t changed much. Some brands are just afraid they don’t know what they will get with Black creatives. We change our hair often, we change our style often and we tend to have a lot more fun with fashion. That can be scary to a luxury brand so they stick with what they know and they don’t deviate from that.

THE TOKEN

Then there are the tokens, there are always tokens darling. The Black fashion creators who are invited and are the only ones ever invited. I feel that most luxury fashion brands, specifically at Paris Fashion Week, have their chosen sprinkle of Black fashion influencers who have somehow made it into the fold. They may even be dressed by the brand and then the brand has met their diversity quota and can pat themselves on the back for not looking racist. But these tokens aren’t bringing their friends and they definitely aren’t trying to open up the doors for anyone else. Most of them, are just happy to be there, and I get that. But me… well I’m bringing all my homegirls too and that’s probably why it will only ever be those chosen few. I could never be a token. It doesn’t ever feel good to be the only Black person somewhere. But some people prefer it. There’s always that perception that there can only be one and the more Black women play into that, the more these luxury fashion brands don’t have to change or make room for anyone else. I wrote about being the Token Black Girl years ago and that essay still rings true.

MY RESOLUTION

It used to be my goal to attend a major luxury fashion show and be dressed by the brand and at least have a seat. 5 years ago, I really thought it was possible that I could achieve that goal. I no longer believe that it’s possible. I started creating content around the same time as some of my white or white presenting fashion influencers and I’ve seen just how quickly things were handed to them. It’s hard to avoid seeing it and it’s difficult not to compare. It’s a hard pill to swallow to think that they just don’t want me there, even though I’ve worked twice as hard, sold twice as much, have as much influence, actually use the information I acquire to highlight the industry and more than that, I deserve to be there. I’ve seen with my own eyes some of the illest Black fashion influencers worldwide, who’s numbers, engagement, incredible work and impact speak for them even when they aren’t in the room, not be able to achieve this goal. Some have given up and have shifted their priorities and goals, myself included. I still enjoy luxury things, but it’s no longer a goal of mine to be dressed and to sit front row at a show of a luxury brand who refuses to see me. My advice for any Black fashion creatives is to enjoy luxury, whatever that means to you but to continue pouring into your own community of fashion brands and designers and to create your own table, brand or business. I remember once, getting a comment from a non person of color, asking why I always mention if a brand is Black Owned in my YouTube videos and my answer was: If we don’t highlight us…who will? That’s why I’m so glad things like Harlem’s Fashion Row exist that do the hard work of finding funding for up and coming Black talent. Black in Fashion Council and The Folklore also do an incredible job of bringing Black designers to New York and Paris Fashion Week. In hindsight, I realized I created a goal that allowed someone else to have a say over if I could achieve it or not. I would have had to wait for someone at these luxury brands to say I belonged. I’m older and wiser and know better than that now. I’m the only person that can stand in the way of achieving any goal I set for myself from now on.

xx

Monroe

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