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OPINION | Will Prada's diversity council stop racist fashion faux pas?

22 February 2019 - 09:11 By Zola Zingithwa
Prada has recently introduced a diversity and inclusion advisory council to avoid making any future fashion faux pas.
Prada has recently introduced a diversity and inclusion advisory council to avoid making any future fashion faux pas.
Image: Alvin Chan/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The fashion world has recently been making headlines for all the wrong reasons with a spate of problematic incidents which range from cultural insensitivity to socially offensive designs. 

Late last year there was Dolce & Gabbana’s racially-insensitive ad campaign which led to the fashion house cancelling their Shanghai fashion show. That was followed by Prada's monkey bag charm, Gucci's balaclava jersey and singer Katy Perry's Rue and Ora shoe designs, which were all criticised for evoking blackface imagery.

In a quest to avoid making any future fashion faux pas, Prada has created a diversity and inclusion advisory council, which will be co-chaired by sculptor and activist Theaster Gates and filmmaker Ava DuVernay.

Prada said in a press statement that the aim of this council is "to elevate voices of colour within the company and the fashion industry at large".  It will also give the Italian label advice during some of its in-house processes.

While Prada should be commended for taking the initiative to tackle a prevailing problem, you can't help but wonder if they — and other big brands — simply don't have a diverse enough workforce already. Surely having more people of colour in key positions would go a long way in preventing these racial gaffes?

As Burberry showed this week with their "noose" jersey (they were called out for being tone deaf regarding suicide) the problem isn't just racism but a lack of sensitivity to all kinds of issues.

Having a more diverse workforce — and not just in terms of race — means there would be more people who could recognise problematic products and campaigns likely to cause a backlash in various sectors of society. As a result they could prevent future problems before they happened. 

Bringing in more diversity could also bring in fresh new creative ideas. Clearly they need them because they seem to have run out of (appropriate) inspiration.