To talk about inequality is to talk about one of the major problems of the modern human being: the difficulty in dealing with the different.
While some romantics still believe that opposites attract, the organization of society shows us that people, in general, try to be close to their similar. The known generates safety and comfort, while the unknown creates awkwardness and distrust. It is a natural movement. Unequals are grouped with their peers, resulting in the formation of a plural community.
Inequality isn’t, in its essence, something bad though. However, it can become very negative when associated with the worst feelings of the human being, such as insecurity, selfishness and intolerance.
And what we notice today is that those negative feelings guided the creation of certain social models and standards as representatives of what is right and good, to the detriment to other ways of being and living. We identify a hierarchy of human beings, as if there was a scale of values and as if some were better than others.
The Fashion environment, despite its many positive aspects, is unfortunately a stage for the perpetuation of an oppressive behavior over the different. You need to be thin, white, tall, handsome and rich to feel worthy of enjoying the great creations of Fashion. And this parameter is nothing less than a reflection of Western ideals of good and fair. The imposition of such features as representatives of personal fulfillment and happiness triggers a race for an empty illusion and incites feelings of inadequacy and inferiority. There is a tremendous reversal of values and a delay of personal and collective development.
On the other hand, we have to recognize the importance Fashion has as responsible figure for changing this hostile scenery. Fashion is everywhere and reaches countless people, so that, if handled properly, it can be a transformation tool. And fortunately some transformations have already begun to happen, even though it’s happening in baby steps.
While the world still see transgender people with discomfort, Fashion has recently embraced them. Brazilian Lea T. is a great example of success. When, in 2010, she became Riccardo Tisci’s, creative director of Givenchy, muse, Lea T. hadn’t even made the change. And she managed to become a great professional in the business. Other examples of transgender models are Ines Rau and Arisce Wanzer.
There is no doubt that being thin still is a prevailing feature of the runways and magazine pages. Eating disorders that many girls develop in the relentless pursuit of the slender body are worrisome. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Movements encouraging the acceptance of one’s own body, even if they are not size 2, are growing. And some fashion names begin to emerge in this new context. This is the case of Crystal Renn, who, after overcoming anorexia nervosa, gained 32 kg and became a plus size model, wearing size 14.
We don’t ignore the fact that Crystal eventually lost weight. But the main point, in this particular case, is that she found a space even when she no longer fitted in with the standard of thinness that she thought was the only acceptable one. Many have achieved success as plus size models today, like Tara Lynn, Ashley Graham and Marquita Pring, to name a few.
In fact, at the last New York Fashion Week, there were two brands (that weren’t specialized in plus-size clothing) that used plus size models: Chromat and Zana Bayne.
Another issue that can not be ignored when speaking of Inequality and Fashion is racism. Much has been discussed today about discrimination against “non-white” people in the Fashion world. If Fashion is made for people, it should represent them, including their racial diversity. However, the number of “non-white” people on the runways is still extremely low. Concerned with this situation, Naomi Campbell and Iman joined Bethann Hardison, famous model of the 70s, to compose the Diversity Coalition and confront big brands about their racist behavior. Many great maisons have been accused of racism, such as Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Valentino, among many others.
The result was positive, with an increase in racial diversity, although it is still necessary to improve a great deal.
In Brazil there is also this dissatisfaction with racial inequality in Fashion. In 2013, 40 black models staged a protest against their small representation on the runways, especially when it comes from a country where over half the population is not white.
There are still many examples of disparities. The fact is, whether in fashion or out of it, inequality is a current and cruel reality that brings advantage to no one and must be fought in favor of a better society.
This post is also available in: Portuguese (Brazil)