Back in the summer time my friend Samantha from Wilder Reign and I started having a lot of conversations around race, diversity and inclusion. It really hit us that the small shop community that we work in, as well as most fashion brands out there - rely on society’s default standard of beauty when it comes to hiring models to showcase their items. If you scroll on Instagram you’ll mainly see white, core size, able bodied people in those photos. For people like Samantha’s children who are Black, myself who is a mixed-race Person of Colour and anybody else out there who falls outside of this “default” will find it hard to see themselves represented in the media. We started asking ourselves why this was. We started asking ourselves why representation is so hard to come by when it should be the minimum.
I started doing what I call “Social Media Audits” when I found new accounts or even when I found myself scrolling on my friends accounts. I’d look at their total number of photos and then look for how many of those photos feature BIPOC or POC models, disabled models, plus size models….you get the idea. It was shocking and disappointing to see feeds with hundreds, if not into the thousands of pictures and see literally no BIPOC, no disabilities, no plus size. If I did see something it came across as performative. Especially during the summer months after that one day everyone threw up a black square on Instagram and called it a day for racism, I would see maybe 1 or 2 photos on someone’s feed featuring a Black model but that was it. Just a photo to check off their list that they are not racist. If I did see a plus size model it would be the “ideal” commercial depiction of what plus size in media should look like with a tiny waist, flat stomach and wide hips. Disabled models are no where to be found. In a sea of white models who have full body abilities - this is not good enough. It is not enough to say you are an inclusive brand on the surface but 1 inch down you see that it’s nothing more than a performative action. We can’t promote ourselves as “all inclusive” if our size range of products does not reflect that. We can not promote ourselves as “all inclusive” if 95% or more of our feed is all white folx. It’s not ok. We can’t ask people to give us money for our products if we 1) won’t feature these people on our feeds and 2) don’t make products that fit everyone equally.
Samantha and I wanted to change that and start to put into small shop owners mind’s that we can do better - both on an individual level and as a community. We may be small shops but together we have a lot of influence through social media. We want to challenge all small shop owners to look at their own feeds and do their own social media audit and see where they stand. When we book photoshoots what models, vendors and photographers are we hiring and working with? Is there room to have some intersectionality? The answer is always yes. We can always do better to be more inclusive. I am not immune to this - my own feed needs work. I am committed to doing this through planned photoshoots throughout the future by collaborating with Samantha and putting our creative energies together.
We want to introduce you to The New Wave Diversity Project. Our brainstorming started to come to life in October with our first photoshoots and we have an infinite amount of photoshoots planned ahead. We want to showcase our models as much as they showcase our clothing. Each model is asked 2 questions and we collect their thoughts in their own words for you here. We want to know what does diversity mean to them and when was the first time they saw themselves represented in the media and what that meant to them.
By asking these questions and sharing their responses with you we’re hoping to do 2 things. Firstly we want to be a place where people are represented. Where they are seen, heard and uplifted. Secondly we want people who ARE widely represented to understand that this isn’t the case for everyone and to start to understand what representation really means. For those who are widely represented please try to understand how important it is to see yourself in the media - and then try to understand how it feels when you are never or rarely represented. With this long intro finally being said I want to introduce you to our first models and read what these young powerful women had to say.
What does diversity mean to you? “It means understanding that each individual is unique, and recognizing our individual differences. These can be along the dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies” Google. This is what diversity means to me.
When was the first time you saw yourself represented in the media and what did that mean to you? The first time that I remember seeing a person that looked like me was in the movie Hairspray. I remember being confused as to why the white people and Black people were divided. Considering that I was adopted and live with two white parents. Plus I was like 5 years old and didn’t know about our depression or slaves yet. So to me, thin[k] about it now, it means that if white and Black were still divided that I would [not] have met my adoptive parents or my best friend.
What does diversity mean to you? When I hear the word diversity I think of people coming together not caring about their race, sexuality, gender identity or religious beliefs. I think of everyone coming together and living in peace. No more protests in the streets, no more people getting killed because of the colour of their skin or how they identify or what they religiously believe.
When was the first time you saw yourself represented in the media and what did that mean to you? I don’t remember the first time I felt represented but this election seeing Kamala Harris as the first woman to be Vice President and not only that but she is Black and South Asian. Me as a Black woman it is very inspiring and a huge step for America and inspiring for many Black girls finally see a woman of colour in a position like that it feels like it’s possible for us to make it there now and that there’s real change happening.
What does diversity mean to you? Diversity means to me, that they are understanding that each individual is unique, and recognizing our individual differences. These can be along the dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies.
When was the first time you saw yourself represented in the media and what did that mean to you? The first time I saw myself represented in the media is when Shake It Up came out and I saw Zendaya. I felt so happy and even though I was a small child, I didn’t understand much then but I was really happy to see someone with my skin colour. Now it still makes me happy to see someone of my skin colour in acting/dancing/musical career. She is the most greatest person ever!