On March 13, The Centre for Fashion Diversity & Social Change (FDSC) hosted the sixth installment of their annual lecture on diversity, DiversityNow! 2018. The discussion was led by Kim Jenkins, Fashion Scholar-Activist from Parsons School of Design and Pratt Institute.
The FDSC is led by director Dr. Ben Barry and explores fashion's power to foster diversity, equity, and inclusion. The lecture encourages students to incorporate diversity into everything they do. Each year, activists like Jenkins inspire students to challenge norms within the industry: through their assignments at Ryerson and in their careers.
This year's theme was Fashion and Race. At the event, Jenkins shared her work on researching and teaching Fashion and Race and discussed how to use fashion to challenge racism. Jenkins discussed both historical and present-day examples of how fashion and race intersect, demonstrating that historical racialized practices continue to persist in today's culture.
Jenkins highlighted how Black people struggled to navigate freedom in the nineteenth century and break from primitive stereotypes. Using cartoons from this era, she showed how Black people were mocked trying to adapt to modern fashions.
Another example was a 2015 TEDx Talk. The video clip features former model and women's activist Yomi Abiola, who was forced to portray primitive animalistic stereotypes in the modeling industry.
After a few case studies, Jenkins concluded her lecture by emphasizing the importance of representation in fashion. "Representation matters. It is so imperative that there are people at the table making decisions who understand context, issues with race."