Over the course of the last few years, there has been increasingly fervent talk about ‘inclusivity’ also in the fashion industry, under not only the profile of genre and race, but also more in general in terms of looks, ability, age, and purchasing power. All this is an expression of the changed awareness of consumers towards the concept of ‘diversity’, including ‘fat’ and ‘thin, ‘beautiful’ and ‘ugly’, but also towards social phenomenon like Black Lives Matter, the activist movement that is quite literal in its meaning, or #metoo, the hashtag that first went viral in October 2017 when sexual assault allegations were raised against film producer Harvey Weinstein, with the aim of condemning the prevalence of sexual harassment in the workplace for women and, more in general, gender inequality.
THE EVOLUTION OF AN INCLUSIVE FASHION
Once again, in 2019, the Council of Fashion Designers of America announced a series of initiatives aimed at making top management positions in American companies more inclusive, while clothing giants like H&M and Nike focused on strategies that are more inclusive for women.Even designer labels in fashion have realised that for some time now society has been increasingly demanding the use of a different kind of language aimed at everyone, without distinctions. Gucci, for example, is among the top brands that made an a-gender and nonconformist look its calling card, and always with a view to inclusivity, this past year, it chose the British model Ellie Goldstein, who has Down’s Syndrome, as the brand ambassador for its Beauty line.Confirming this trend are the few live fashion shows that took actually place in 2020, which will be remembered in the history of fashion for having had the highest percent of curvy models participate. There was the iconic Ashley Graham, who walked the runway for brands like Fendi and Etro, or Jill Kortleve, the protagonist of Chanel, who was once again chosen for the brand’s SS2021 ad campaign, along with Versace, which for the very first time cast three plus-size models wearing size 46 and up. Emblematic instead are the cases of Valentina Sampaio, the first transgender model to appear on the cover of Vogue Paris in 2017 and then in 2019 as the Victoria’s Secret brand ambassador, or Winnie Harlow, made famous by the white spots resulting from her vitiligo skin condition, all the way up to Aaron Philip, the black transgender model in a wheelchair chosen for the AW 2020 Moschino ad campaign.
INCLUSIVITY versus DIFFERENCES IN ABILITY
Increasingly the concept of ‘inclusivity’ in fashion extends to also include individuals with a disability, as in the case of Bebe Vio, the Paralympian wheelchair fencer champion chosen by Nike as its celebrity endorser in launching this past February its new Nike Go FlyEase sneaker, the shoe that can be fastened and unfastened without using your hands. “It usually takes me a lot of time to put my shoes on – commented the young Italian fencer -. With Nike GO FlyEase, instead, I just need to put my feet in and jump on it. The shoes are a new kind of technology, not only for adaptive athletes but for everyone’s real life”. With this revolutionary invention, in fact, the U.S. sportswear giant aims to address the needs of all those individuals, who for one reason or another, for a temporary condition or even simply because of age, have difficulty in using their hands to put their shoes on and take them off, and this can include toddlers, pregnant women or even simply those who do not have a lot of available time. The concept of inclusivity accordingly becomes ‘everyone, each one of us’. Already in the recent past, Nike had previously focused on concepts of inclusivity by launching in 2019 the line of Victory Swim swimsuits for Muslim women. That’s not all: with Nike Go FlyEase, the brand with a Swoosh logo wanted to also give life to a technologically advanced sneaker, which is accessible however in terms of price, in keeping with the philosophy expressed by the motto of FlyEase: “Better is Temporary”.
INCLUSIVITY versus DIFFERENCES IN INCOME
Accessibility for all income levels is also the central idea behind Real Life Luxury by Zalando, a project launched by the German online shopping platform in 2020 with the aim of reinforcing the ‘shopping experience’ by also offering its clientele high-end brands, but in an ‘everyday luxury’ version, with a selection of garments and accessories for special and formal occasions accessible to even the budgets of mere mortals. The message in fact is clear as explained by Zalando: “The feeling is that of being in the front row: you will feel like an IT Girl or one of the most famous stars of Instagram, and in just a few minutes you will breathe in the fashion of tomorrow. Even if you are far from Milan, Paris, or New York, and maybe just relaxing on your couch, the most exclusive brands, the most sophisticated designers, and the most in vogue trends of the moment are closer than you think”. In fact, in the Post-Covid Era the very concept of luxury itself is no longer what it was in the past. Even the RealLifeLuxury ad campaign, directed by English photographer Felix Cooper, is very innovative and goes in search of the present-day definition of ‘real’ luxury, which today means having a ‘real life’, spending time with friends or family, escaping into nature, or simply following your dreams. In fact, the protagonists of the campaign are real people, in their real lives, with fashion as an accomplice to escapism and to self-expression.
Speaking instead of inclusive brands in the field of luxury and customisation, we find for example the newly launched Lordh.it, created in October 2020 by designer Lorenzo Gramegna, who proposes men’s elegant footwear made the ‘old-fashioned way’, which are however accessible to all feet and all budgets, because the shoes are personalised starting from some iconic models that can then be adapted to suit individual needs and piece-dyed in accordance with personal tastes. All of this at a much lower price than traditional bespoke items.
INCLUSIVITY versus DIFFERENCES IN PERFORMANCE
Remaining in the segment of footwear, we can cite the case of the UPower work&safety brand and its Red Lion footwear line, which thanks to the Infinergy® system is capable of providing a 55% energy return with each step taken. This ‘reinforced performance’ combined with a look that closely resembles a sneaker, has made UPower Red Lion line shoes the ideal companions even outside work hours. In fact, the company from Paruzzaro (NO), for some time now, has clearly focused its advertising efforts on the most dominant form of mass media that exists – the television -, along with billboards put up in various parts of the biggest cities, with the aim of introducing the brand to a vast and heterogeneous public. It’s probably no coincidence that one of the most iconic brand ambassadors of Red Lion in 2019 was a guy who was not exactly in shape and athletic, but sure of himself and his own personality. The aim is to include as many people as possible in this project, even those who do not work in especially risky environments, so that they can make the most of the health benefits offered up by these professional shoes. The next step towards inclusivity in the fashion industry will probably go in the direction of brands playing an active role on a social level, because as announced some time ago by the CEO of Balenciaga, Cédric Charbit: “The mission of the brand is no longer just about selling products. We must focus on the fact that by now we are addressing an extended audience, and not just our customers”.