Blogpost by: Karun Tyagi
The practise of using “token” persons of colour in advertising and branding in the fashion business is referred to as “brownwashing.” This occurs when no true meaningful steps are taken to assist or represent different groups. This can take the form of using people of colour as models in fashion campaigns or on the runway, but not hiring them for key creative roles behind the scenes; it can also take the form of using cultural symbols and motifs in clothing and accessories without giving credit to the communities where they originated from or compensating those communities in some way.
The use of indigenous designs and patterns in clothing and accessories without giving acknowledgment or pay to the indigenous people who created them is an example of brownwashing in the fashion industry. Brownwashing is a form of cultural appropriation.
Another illustration of this is when a person of colour is used by a fashion brand as the face of the brand, but the company makes no effort to foster an environment at work that is diverse and welcoming, nor do they guarantee that the products they sell are available to members of communities with varying levels of socioeconomic status.
This is problematic because it reinforces harmful stereotypes and systems of oppression, and it also undermines the actual work that needs to be done to create truly inclusive and equitable spaces in the fashion industry. The problem with this is that it perpetuates harmful stereotypes, and it also reinforces oppressive systems. Consumers ought to be aware of these methods and hold fashion brands accountable for their behaviour in order to protect the industry.
In addition, the business has a long tradition of not accurately representing people with varied body shapes, different skin tones, and a lack of representation of persons with disabilities, which is another form of brownwashing. The fashion business should make an effort to become more inclusive and should make room for the representation of all types of people in the workplace.
To summarise, brownwashing in the fashion industry is a sort of tokenism that fashion firms employ to appear inclusive and diverse without taking any significant steps to promote oppressed populations. Fashion brands do this so that they may sell more of their products. It is critical for customers to be aware of these practises and to hold fashion firms accountable for their conduct. The industry ought to make efforts toward genuine representation and inclusiveness.
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