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New CFDA Diversity Report - let's just say there's work to do

The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) released a report this month on the state of diversity in American fashion. The report was conducted in collaboration with PVH Corp. (owner of such brands as Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein) and timed to coordinate with Black History Month in the US. Despite a deluge of IG posts from brands celebrating Black creativity this month, the report suggests that the industry has yet to make significant progress. Here are the key findings:

Remember when this Vogue diversity cover was slammed as not so diverse? Fashion needs to do better - especially behind the scenes.

  1. LACK OF EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES Nearly half of all respondents (48%) received a referral for their current job, but only about a quarter (23%) of Black employees were referred. In an industry notorious for its exclusivity, a referral is often key to even be considered for a job.

  2. INSUFFICIENT SALARIES 37% of Black respondents reported needing to supplement their income, versus 23% of white employees. Entry-level fashion roles nearly always have a low starting salary but are based in big cities with a high cost of living. Wealthier employees with families able to support them have the luxury of taking low-paying jobs.

  3. FEWER PROMOTIONS AND RAISES Respondents who identified themselves as people of color reported feeling that their race had a negative impact on receiving raises and promotions. In particular, 40% of Black employees reported such a situation, compared with just 1% of white employees.


This analysis draws on a McKinsey & Company survey of over 1,000 working industry professionals across 41 companies, 20 stakeholder interviews, and three focus groups with students and emerging designers. This research was conducted over the fall of 2020. Progress is being made, with more and more brands including Gap and Sephora adopting the 15 Percent Pledge. But brands are also using this as a marketing opportunity (see: marketing emails mentioning Martin Luther King Day more than doubled this year compared with 2020, according to Edited).

This month - and beyond - let’s continue to celebrate the contributions of people of color to the fashion industry, but let’s also push companies to take more actionable steps toward making the fashion industry more accessible and open to all.

Download the report in full here.

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