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“If we don’t intentionally include, we (un)intentionally exclude" 5 DEI action points to start today

Need a refresher on your DEI-efforts - or simply don't know where to start? Creative DEI Consultant and CEO of The Soulfuls Aram Ostadian-Binai offers a few reminders before fashion week hits the town.
Need a refresher on your DEI-efforts - or simply don't know where to start? Creative DEI Consultant and CEO of The Soulfuls Aram Ostadian-Binai offers a few reminders before fashion week hits the town.

With only a few days until Copenhagen Fashion Week AW24, I would like to share a few reminders – I say ‘reminders’ as they barely are new to our ears anymore. However, I meet many people in our field who express the desire to create change when it comes to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), but do not know where to start.

My advice is to make it a clear mission and KPI for your brand and start acting intentionally on that – today! The change needs to happen fast as consumers increasingly prefer brands and fashion influencers who are relatable and authentic (The State of Fashion 2024 report), additionally the next generation of talent that are entering the fashion industry expecting greater diversity and a culture that better fit with their progressive values.

Coming from a background in fashion media, branding and events, I saw with my own eyes how many times diverse talents were excluded from guest lists, speaker lists, editorials, internships and new hirings – for us to play it ‘safe’ – or better said – ‘the same’. For an industry that keeps inspiring and pushing the envelope – season after season – we play it very safe when it comes to DEI. 

If we don’t intentionally include, we (un)intentionally exclude. 

In the fashion industry, both globally and in Denmark, we still need to explore and address issues facing diversity representation in our industry. I recommend prioritising a top-down DEI approach, starting with looking at who sits in the boardrooms, C-suite positions, media and others who hold power. 

So, for all of us wanting to be intentional about our commitment and the community that we are building, here are a few reminders of actions you can take now:

•  Who are you inviting to your shows and events? Give yourself an hour to review your guestlist. Do the research and invite names who are not usually top of your mind.

•  How diverse is your team of freelancers and creatives? This is a great opportunity to engage with new talents in the production of your show and events. Open the door and give an opportunity to those who systematically have been excluded.

•  What do you communicate with your DEI values? Ensure your company values are internalised by your teams across all layers, especially those on the frontlines who need to be welcoming and respectful to guests, e.g. when they tick off the guest list, at security, and beyond.

•  Let us talk about size inclusivity among models, influencers and beyond. We are seeing a positive shift during Copenhagen Fashion Week, where the number of curvy models increased from 2.9 % in the AW22 season to 7.39% the following year, in AW23 (Fashion Forum). I personally hope that sizes 38 – 40 – which a majority of women in Denmark identify with – get a greater debut as we keep missing them in the runways and campaigns. It is also about time, more brands expand their collections beyond size 42 and redefine beauty standards in their collections (please not just in a variety of tube dresses but take the time to design what actually flatter curvy bodies). 

•  Here is another food for thought – are we at all ready to talk about accessibility during Copenhagen Fashion Week? My encouragement is that brands start to think about people with disabilities as true DEI is far broader than gender, colour, age and size. 

A transformation towards a more inclusive and diverse industry is the only way forward, and fashion shows are important stages to reflect our inclusivity, cultural diversity and redefine what it means to be beautiful.

I am sure you are sitting back with other reminders you wished I had included. You can drop us an email or share your thoughts on your social channels – feel free to tag me @aramob and @FashionForum for repost or future coverage on these topics.

Aram Ostadian-Binai is the Founder & CEO of The Soulfuls, a Copenhagen-based Social Entrepreneur, Creative DEI Advocate and Consultant.

She founded The Soulfuls in 2018, an award winning global network and platform that is on a mission to pave the way for a free, fair and inclusive future for young women of all backgrounds. A platform that offers talks, workshops, networking events, mentoring and reverse mentoring within the creative industry.

Aram was awarded Voice Of The Year 2022 by ELLE, and she is a jury member in Danish Diversity Awards as well as in Copenhagen Fashion Week’s show committee.
She has studied and worked in Copenhagen, London, New York, Boston and Tokyo, holding an MA in Media Production from London College of Fashion, complemented with an Executive Education in Digital and Social Media Strategy from Harvard Business School.