Is the fashion industry doing anything to be financially inclusive?

Inclusivity has become so much more than a business buzzword in fashion.  In the last decade, not only are equality and diversity central to human resources and marketing. They have also become intrinsic to brands’ values as they seek to win and represent Gen Z consumers.

Logo-led customer acquisition has died away (though not completely died) with the invention of the internet – distrust of big brother-type advertising, access to unfiltered news, and the proliferation of myriad minority voices have created spaces for inclusion to thrive, supported by likeminded political/social movements.

Including women and other minority groups can still lead to the exclusion of less wealthy groups

Fashion is a natural place for inclusivity mandates to coalesce. A haven for creatives and outsiders, women, and the LGBTQ community. In the US, 85% of fashion is bought by women, a frequently underrepresented demographic in society and the workplace.  

While the moneyed 40s represent a majority of consumers, it’s the younger and trendier millennial and Gen Z group that brands need to win over in their search for new blood (especially in Asia, where younger consumers also have cash to burn).

Brands have to match internal and creative inclusivity with a desire to reach out of their demographic comfort zones

Inclusivism is not all in the name of altruism, of course. Brands understand that to engage a younger crowd (and to stay in business), they must speak its language. 

But they also must go deeper than superficial statements of fraternity. Better brands match gender-fluid or hybrid clothing lines with commitments to equality and diversity on the runway and in the boardroom.  

But where fashion (and particularly luxury fashion) has not been as impactful in its inclusivity mandate is in financial inclusivity.

Exclusivity is at the heart of fashion’s appeal. It’s as important as inclusivity

This kind of inclusion runs counter to the exclusivist imagery of luxury brands – customers at that end of the spectrum don’t seek inclusivity as much as exclusivist experiences. And this has created a paradox.

How can fashion brands attempt to be inclusive across the financial divide and still pitch to a wealthier demographic?

What does financial inclusivity in fashion look like?

There are a number of ways financial inclusivity is being forwarded, from proceeds of collections being donated to worthy causes (see ASOS and Feed), to CX that includes customers being able to claim points or make charitable donations to the likes of Vetta and Reformation, who understand that ethical supply chains are ultimately inclusive.

Diffusion lines also breed inclusion. They provide access to designers whose main line may be too expensive for many.  

Make no mistake, inclusivity is a hard pitch for brands. But trends show that in order to reach a more youthful target market, businesses must do more to temper exclusivism with genuine altruism and actually be less inclined towards the rich and elite. Even if many of their customers still are.


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