I am Linsey Resida, Senior Fashion PR manager at UPR doing a Ph.D. at Tilburg University in diversity and inclusion. My research introduces Du Bois’ concept of double consciousness in a contemporary context and brings to light the value of identity within organizations.
Unlimited self-expression, empowering identity, and celebrating the authentic self. How can you help as a brand, and what does it deliver?
Celebrate your authentic self.
Take Dr. Martens, a brand that celebrates the “authentic self.” Check out Dr. Martens, and you will be immediately confronted with an array of real, authentic faces and styles. It sets a tone of openness and compassion; it keeps you from wondering if these people will fit in. They’re just there. You see people of all different backgrounds and ethnicities. Their images show that it is normal to be yourself. It is this feeling you get that extends beyond making sure you meet familiar faces. More than seeing a face you recognize in the mirror, the images show you that it’s OK to be yourself. They are unpolished images, and everything is allowed. Their various campaigns celebrate individuality in their unique way.
A great example is the “Tough as you” slogan. Images and stories show a world where everyone can be themselves without fear of being judged. It is a brand that brings people from all walks of life together and encourages them to feel welcome.
It’s not only Dr. Martens, although they are a great example. Celebrating individuality is gaining popularity. Increasingly, brands understand the value of diversity and inclusion and work for change.
Show that discussing diversity and inclusion is about a genuine intention for identity.
Social momentum for change
The death of George Floyd created social momentum for diversity and inclusion. People all over the world stood up to speak out about equality. It brought the world together to talk about (racial) equality. Since then, the importance of diversity and inclusion has grown, and brands have also taken the lead by pledging to do more to meet the values of equality.
Major industry changes
We see the changes on the Catwalk, like different profiles in New York Fashion Week’s catwalk for SS23, or The Chanel fashion show in Dakar, which brought fashion to Africa.
In addition, we have a new voice brought by Vogue UK editor-in-chief Edward or Naomi Campbell, who are striving for more inclusion in fashion, or photographer Tyler Mitchell, the first black photographer shooting a cover of Vogue America. It’s a change of culture where progressivity is the new awareness.
NY Times research shows that fashion brands have promised improvement since the Black Lives Matter movement and the racist incidents that led to it. As a result, we are seeing more diversity in ads and on the catwalk. This shift in representation is positive. However, it is also clear that we still have a long way to go because a commitment to diversity means sustained action-based change.
These developments have led to more diversity, but what is the difference between bringing diversity into focus and moving to change? It is more than a fancy campaign or a brand strategy based on adopting words. The difference lies in adopting values that assume diversity and inclusion.
If we only add value to visibility as part of the diversity strategy, we do not fully enrich the discussion of diversity and inclusion. Instead, a campaign built around diverse people’s ideas, including their authentic backgrounds, and allowing them to be themselves will enhance the dialogue about diversity and inclusion.
Empathy vs. Acceptance
After diversity, the next step is how to inspire people to be authentic. How many people are concerned about whether their brand helps people express their identity?
The answer lies in the difference in the meaning of the two words. Diversity recognizes the plurality of identity, while inclusion acknowledges that those identities are equal. Empathy is the answer to a lack of diversity: empathy allows you to understand that there are different identities because you can take their perspective. While empathy alone does not guarantee that everyone will be treated equally, neither does it guarantee inclusion. For that, you need acceptance as a solution to a lack of inclusion. Acceptance literally means “not changing something.”
Experiencing diversity and inclusion should be a noble intention; seeing it as a trend shows exactly the gap between a successful and an unsuccessful DEI strategy. It lacks the values of acceptance and empathy.
Success rests on elevating people to their authentic selves, the basis of creating a safe space for a diverse group of people.
The answer lies in the representation of diverse profiles and that you allow people with authentic backgrounds to be themselves.
UPR X INCLUSION
At UPR, we think about diversity and inclusion as an inspiration that, if appropriately implemented, can foster self-expression, creating a community of people who express their identity and use your brand as a tool to express that identity. Our role in making diversity and inclusion a priority and a success is to continue encouraging people to be their authentic selves. When brands do this, they enable the people who use the products to be more themselves; the brand becomes a part of their lives and takes on emotional meaning.
This collaborative approach creates loyalty to the brand but, more importantly, creates a chain of kinetic feedback between the brand and the person. This undoubtedly gives each brand “boots on the ground” (pun intended) and provides real-time information about the style, fashion, and sentiment of the times.
We can set this in motion by making identities central to a brand, campaign, or strategy. It starts with a genuine conversation with us, in-store and among stakeholders.
Inclusion is the acceptance of multiple identities. So let’s get to know each other.
Senior PR Consultant
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