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The Fashion Industry Needs an Upgrade She is an immigrant child who moves to Canada, fleeing prosecution from a civil war. She finds herself continuously trying to fit into this Western world in any way possible because she is no longer welcome in her homeland. She no longer wears the bhindi because it appears too foreign. She tries to eat less curry as she feels it may call for stereotypes. She no longer applies turmeric since such a skin care routine is too strange. She is constantly looking to change her clothes, her shoes, her complexion, her body shape, her hair texture, her ethnicity and herself. She wants to conform. Just like many of her peers, she has learned to interact with the external world and has grasped the westernized “standard” of beauty, which has been plastered around her—from clothes on mannequins to magazine covers on a newsstand. Only when she enters a new chapter of her life in university does she realize that society’s normalized standards of beauty and fashion are nothing but a hoax, and that the fashion industry is problematic in a multitude of ways, constantly perpetuating these unrealistic and harmful ideals. The fashion industry is nothing but a blend of hypocrisy, with a tint or two of cultural appropriation, exploitation, racism, sexism, elitism, ableism and nepotism. Fashion is thought to be a canvas for the creative, innovative and expressive ideas from diverse backgrounds and for diverse people. But where is the diversity? According to TheFashionSpot, more women of colour walked during the Fall 2017 fashion season than ever before, still, 70% of the models were white. Diversity matters because representation provides relatedness, a sense of belonging and aims for the inclusivity of people. Diversity brings striking runway themes, clothes and complexions to the pool. Yet, instead of incorporating new ideas by including people from different backgrounds, designers exploit and appropriate other cultures to make a few heads turn and to convey so-called “creativity.” It is not creativity when white Marc Jacob’s models are celebrated for walking the runway with dreadlocks while black people are being fined in Tennessee for doing the exact same thing. Dreadlocks have a deep history—a discriminative and painful one, to say the least. A few years ago, Karlie Kloss wore a Native American headdress on the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show runway, sexualizing Native American women and disrespecting Indigenous culture. These headdresses are traditionally worn by a respected elder or others who have earned the right to wear them. Recently, Gucci showcased most of their male models wearing the sacred Sikh turban as a mere fashion statement on the runway, ignoring the profound religious significance it has to the Sikh community. What made this even more troubling is that not even a single brown model was seen walking the show. Fashion designers often exploit sacred aspects of minority cultures to stay unique, simultaneously neglecting to incorporate actual people from those cultures into their exclusive fashion world. Many continuously refuse to take a stand for issues that people of colour are facing, such as Black Lives Matter and/or Native American land claims, while they are eager to have a runway with white models wearing cornrows. I, the immigrant child from the intro, am appalled by the current climate in the fashion industry. My unrelenting need to look a certain way for much of my teenage years was enforced by the fashion industry in many ways. I now realize that the industry is in shambles in more ways than not. I realized that fashion is more than just a pair of Chanel boots, but rather what is comfortable and unique to one’s identity. An eight hundred-dollar Gucci belt will have the same effect as a thrifted blazer from a local vintage store, if well put-together. My culture is not something I need to throw away and reject, but a pair of jhumikis are something I need to incorporate into my outfit. I was taught to find my culture aversive as it does not conform to whiteness, yet I now see part of it being stolen for capitalistic fashion every damn day. Ah… the irony. Change needs come in the fashion world and much of it begins with individuals who choose to ignore pre-existing fashion norms and start forging their own structure that is diverse, respectful, and above all, inclusive. ★



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