Eva Chen On Diversity In Fashion And Breaking Out Of Your Instagram Bubble

'It’s not about the mean girls that can’t sit with us. What’s cool right now is that everyone’s got a seat at the table.’

Eva Chen On Diversity In Fashion

by Rebecca Holman |
Published on

It’s that time of year where we look back on the last 12 months in the fashion and beauty industries and try to decide how much progress has been made – how much closer the fashion world is to reflecting real life (and the fact that we live in the 21st Century) than it was 365 days ago. Last week, theFashionSpot its diversity report looking at how far we’ve come in the past year and revealed that 32.5 per cent of top international fashion publications featured people of cover – an improvement of 3.5 percentage points on 2016, although the increase itself has slowed down year on year. The report also revealed that only 1 percent of magazine covers last year featured models or celebrities who were a (American) size 12 or above. This is a 0.1 percent improvement year on year.

End of year report? Some progress, but not enough. Could do seriously better.

And as we reflect on another year in fashion, it’s also a good time to consider what happens in 2018. This week we teamed up with Grazia magazine and Instagram to discuss the issues around diversity in the fashion industry. Alongside me on the panel were fashion blogger Freddie Harrel and Mariah Idrissi, model and authority on modest fashion. Both women spoke passionately about how the industry’s lack of diversity has impacted them in the past, and the steps they’re taking personally to tackle the issue. The event was co-chaired Grazia editor Natasha Pearlman and Eva Chen, Instagram’s head of fashion partnerships owner of a cool 800,000 Instagram followers and some v. famous feet (check out her Insta feedif you have no idea what I’m talking about). I caught up with her after the event to ask, why do so many brands keep getting it wrong?

‘That’s the question for the ages,’ she says. ‘When you hear about campaigns where they will hire women of colour only to put them next to someone not of colour and say like brighten your skin – it’s 2017! The people who work for these companies just need to walk around High Street, like Oxford Street, like that is your customer. The size, the shape, the colour, the gender diversity, and just remember that.’

It sounds simple, yet so many people persist in getting it wrong. Only a couple of weeks ago website wish.com faced controversy when they released an advert for their plus-size tights featuring a slim model pulling the tights right up over her body. And when they did? They were eviscerated on social media.

This is why Eva believes Instagram can be a powerful tool for promoting diversity, both in terms of giving people a platform to call out brands, but also in terms of discovery – brands can’t use ignorance as an excuse any more.

‘The amazing thing about Instagram again is that a community of 800 million people, its diverse, there are models and influencers on there of every colour, every belief it is all represented and I think the people who might sign off on these things, they might not be on these platforms, they might not see that what gets the likes is not a very narrow point of view, it’s that inclusion and people want to feel like they are that part of something bigger and when you do something negative or when you do something that is too narrow that exclusionist kind of mentality it’s not cool anymore, it’s not about the mean girls that can’t sit with us, what’s cool right now is that everyone’s got a seat at the table.’

Eva singles out Kering – the parent company to brands including Gucci and Balenciaga as an organisation that faced accusations around a lack of diversity head on and took proactive steps to tackle the issue.

‘They publicly made a declaration that they are not going to cast models who are like… who are not of age and that they are making a commitment to diversity. And so, when companies do I do feel like for a brand like Gucci, when they take public steps and you make

statements and you really stand by your words, so that it’s not tokenism, that you will see the results in your bottom line, when people feel included you’ll see the results in the bottom line, and I think that’s why on Instagram and off Instagram you have to vote with your wallet, and you have to vote with your spending power’

There’s been a lot of talk in the last couple of years about our social media bubbles – where our social feeds create an echo chamber of positive affirmation, leading us to believe that everyone thinks exactly the same way as we do. Our social media bubbles have been blamed for our failure to predict everything from Brexit and Donald Trump’s election to Jeremy Corbyn’s unexpected resurgence during the general election. Does this sort of bubble stand in the way of true diversity on social media? We just see, like and follow the people who are like us don’t we?

Eva disagrees. ‘You can certainly pick or chose who you want to follow but if you only want to expose yourself to a certain kind of person or certain kind of lifestyle or something, I don’t know that that’s possible on Instagram just because there are 800 million people and because of the explorer page which is visited by 100 million people every day.’

In fact, Eva believes that this range of voices is Instagram’s strength. ‘This range of voices is exactly I think that that’s what make Instagram a beautiful place is the diversity of opinion, is the diversity of voice, and now-a- days if you love fashion and, you know you follow Vogue or Grazia or whoever you’re following, its impossible not to see people representing different paths of life and I think that’s why Instagram has always resonated with me.’

‘So, when people say like oh well… there are people that want to live in a bubble, but I think Instagram should be experienced bubble-free and it’s almost impossible to stay in a bubble.’

Discovering new talent, new voices, new faces has never been easier for brands, and they’re fast running out of excuses for not diversity front of centre of everything they do. And it’s not just the brands – Eva believes that every element of the industry needs to get involved if there’s going to be real change afoot in 2018.’The agencies have to make a more asserted effort. I hate hearing that well we just can’t find you know more models of colour. Like really?’

And what message would she give to those sections of the industry that still aren’t getting it? ‘You just have to work a little harder, you have to do more, you have to try harder.

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This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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