Intersecting forces of race and class are shaping inequality in American society and the economy.
The fashion, retail and beauty industries offer a cross-section of that inequality, experts said, where entrenched power dynamics are reflected in the continuing lack of diversity in leadership roles and ownership in brands, as well as in the precariousness of employment and wages for sales and manufacturing workers.
At every level, these disparities bear particular resonance for the livelihoods and agency of those in the industry who come from historically marginalized groups, including Black, Native American and LGBTQ employees, as well as other people of color and women.
“For whom are these fashions designed? What is a symbol of beauty? All of these things depend on who gets to have a voice, and, if you get to have a voice, if you get to have the capital to control these bigger issues,” said William Spriggs, a professor in the department of economics at Howard University.
“And so, they become a self-fulfilling reinforcement, when you deny people opportunities at these different levels at which the industry operates,” he said. “The role that fashion plays in this is not trivial at all. It’s very much an integral part of it.”
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