Some thoughts on seeking change when you’re starting out.
I’m working as a junior fashion writer at a luxury fashion magazine. I spend my time writing for the website and print magazines (fashion news and runway show reviews, for example) and managing the website and social media platforms. I love my job and I love the fashion industry, but at the same time, I want to change it.
I want to see more, specifically racial, diversity. Having worked for a year and a half as a (rather unsuccessful) model, I’m well aware of the problems within the fashion industry – either the absence of models of colour or their stereotyped or tokenised presence. I see these problems not as a result of racist people, but of a broad racist structure which is part of the bad aftertaste from centuries of colonialism and racial oppression.
These problems can be overwhelming, particularly when you’re starting out in your career. I’ve done a lot thinking since graduating 18 months ago – here are some thoughts:
1. Start small.
There may come a point when you can influence things on a large scale – casting major runway shows for example – but for now, start small. For example, when making picture edits for Instagram, I make a conscious effort to include more models of colour. No, it’s not choosing the magazine’s cover star but it’s a start and the small decisions matter.
2. You’re not Tim Blanks yet.
You may, like me, have opinions and a lot of them, but you don’t have authority. I know that now is the time to work my socks off, learn my craft and gain authority; for now, I’m biding my time (holding back the open letters…).
3. Raise discussion.
Despite my previous point, it’s good to raise discussion about what’s going on in the industry, whether it’s about Beyoncé’s Time magazine cover, an issue of cultural appropriation or the lack of diversity on the catwalk. Get people thinking and talking.
4. Read a lot.
American writer and social critic James Baldwin tells us to “Read, read, read, never stop reading. And when you can’t read anymore…write.” Sound advice, no? I want to keep, forgive the term, brainwashing myself (washing my brain) – challenging my thinking and informing my opinions. Reading also helps me frame fashion and what I do within a broader cultural narrative.
5. Hate the system, not the people.
Racism is within our social structures – it’s systemic but, on the whole, subliminal. It’s a case of a racist system not racist people. Branding your colleagues as racist and calling for their public execution will not, funnily enough, benefit your cause or career. Fashion is not a monster to be fought against but an industry of people to be engaged with.
So, there’s five tips on seeking change in the fashion industry from the bottom rung of the career ladder: start small, stay humble, raise discussion, read, read, read and remember to fight the man, not your colleagues.
Words: Ted Stansfield
Ted is junior fashion writer and digital coordinator at 10 Magazine and 10 Men. After living in Hong Kong for a year working in drug rehabilitation, Ted undertook a degree in history of art at UCL where he specialised in postcolonial studies and wrote his thesis on the representation of black masculinity in fashion. He worked as a model alongside his degree after being scouted in his first year. Prior to working at 10, Ted interned at Tank magazine and ASOS magazine.