default-output-block.skip-main
BoF Logo

The Business of Fashion

Agenda-setting intelligence, analysis and advice for the global fashion community.

The Best of BoF 2023: Diversity’s Litmus Test

In 2020, like many companies, the $50 billion yoga apparel brand created a new department to improve internal diversity and inclusion, and to create a more equitable playing field for minorities. In interviews with BoF, 14 current and former employees said things only got worse.
The experience of the employees who spoke with BoF encapsulates some minorities’ biggest fears regarding how the fashion industry’s diversity efforts would play out after the spotlight on the Black Lives Matter movement died down.
The experience of the employees who spoke with BoF encapsulates some minorities’ biggest fears regarding how the fashion industry’s diversity efforts would play out after the spotlight on the Black Lives Matter movement died down. (Shutterstock)

The past year proved to be the ultimate litmus test for fashion’s diversity commitments. Sweeping pledges to create a more inclusive and equitable landscape for Black talent after George Floyd’s murder as well as fashion’s activism in areas such as LGBTQ-and-abortion rights all came to a head in 2023.

At Lululemon, a year-long BoF investigation revealed that a diversity and inclusion department set up in 2020 had a dual role in supporting employees and protecting the company’s image: 14 former and current employee accounts depicted a culture that was overwhelmingly unwelcoming of Black employees and where work conditions only deteriorated since 2020.

The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn affirmative action in June emboldened conservative politicians and right-wing extremist groups who called for penalties on companies that they believe go too far in their diversity efforts. Target learned its own tough lesson when it caved to anti-trans activists and removed some of its Pride Month merchandise — alienating groups on both sides.

Fashion leaders scrambled to wrap their arms around the rising threat and promise of AI (most notably ChatGPT) as staffers in areas like marketing, merchandising, design and content creation reckoned with the potential vulnerability of their jobs.

A protracted labour shortage meant retailers of all tiers struggled to staff their stores — some opened entire schools and other sponsored college programmes in hopes of getting a leg up; luxury brands poached from their mass retail counterparts as they moved into less prominent fashion cities like Nashville, Tenn. and Columbus, Ohio.

A wave of M&A — from Coach parent Tapestry’s August buyout of Versace and Michael Kors owner Capri Holdings for $8.5 billion to Kering’s purchase of the fragrance house Creed — yielded new cultural learnings for HR execs and fashion CEOs.

Top Stories

At Lululemon, Being Black Is ‘Off-Brand’: In 2020, like many companies, the $50 billion yoga apparel brand created a new department to improve internal diversity and inclusion, and to create a more equitable playing field for minorities. In interviews with BoF, 14 current and former employees said things only got worse.

The experience of the employees who spoke with BoF encapsulates some minorities’ biggest fears regarding how the fashion industry’s diversity efforts would play out after the spotlight on the Black Lives Matter movement died down.

The Fashion Jobs Most Vulnerable to AI: The next phase of artificial intelligence promises to change – and potentially eliminate – jobs that were unaffected by previous waves of automation.

In general, companies shouldn’t flock to every new technology model promising cost savings or amped up efficiencies, experts say.

Why Fashion Should Recruit From Outside the Industry: Brands and retailers are increasingly looking to other sectors to fill their upper ranks and tackle thorny problems.

Fashion firms are increasingly looking outside the industry to recruit mid-to-senior level talent.

Why Luxury Brands Are Poaching Store Employees from Mass Retail: As high-end brands increasingly venture outside the tony streets of cities like Los Angeles and New York, their recruiting tactics, too, are taking a new direction.

Luxury brands’ willingness to broaden their talent search matches the shifting demographics of their customers.

Why Retailers Still Can’t Solve Their Hiring Problem: From wage hikes to tuition assistance, fashion firms say they’re pulling out all the stops to make store associate roles more appealing. More often than not, their efforts are falling flat.

The Great Resignation, inflation, retail crime and even social media job opportunities have helped make filling store roles one of the biggest challenges retailers face today.

Can the Fifteen Percent Pledge Get Past the Number?: As the climate around diversity initiatives shifts, the nonprofit is adapting its messaging to emphasise the need for long-term, structural changes over quick fixes.

Fifteen Percent Pledge founder Aurora James.

The BoF Podcast | Allbirds’ Tim Brown on Learning to Lead With Resilience: The co-founder and chief innovation officer of the Nasdaq-listed sneaker brand reflects on how his time as a professional footballer prepared him to lead a business through the highs and the lows.

Tim Brown.

© 2024 The Business of Fashion. All rights reserved. For more information read our Terms & Conditions

More from Workplace & Talent
Analysis and advice on the future of work, careers and management.

Discover the most exciting career opportunities now available on BoF Careers — including jobs from Tapestry, Tomorrow and Galvan.


Slogan T-shirts, themed sneakers and marketing emails that mention the heritage celebration are rarer this year, as consumers grow tired of cash-in collections and corporate diversity efforts face a backlash. Some brands say they’re steering resources away from flashy gestures and towards more meaningful work.



view more

Subscribe to the BoF Daily Digest

The essential daily round-up of fashion news, analysis, and breaking news alerts.

The Business of Fashion

Agenda-setting intelligence, analysis and advice for the global fashion community.
CONNECT WITH US ON
BoF Professional Summit - New Frontiers: AI, Digital Culture and Virtual Worlds - March 22, 2024
© 2024 The Business of Fashion. All rights reserved. For more information read our Terms & Conditions, Privacy Policy, Cookie Policy and Accessibility Statement.
BoF Professional Summit - New Frontiers: AI, Digital Culture and Virtual Worlds - March 22, 2024