The Fashion School's NYC Studio Hosts Fashion Diversity Panel on LGTBQ+ Inclusion

In July, the NYC Studio hosted its second industry panel, bringing alumni, students, industry attendees and guests from the main campus to the Kent State Fashion School’s studio in the Garment District.

As part of their ongoing Fashion Diversity Panel Series, the July panel focused on LGBTQ+ inclusion and representation in the fashion industry. Richard Durant, director of product integrity and testing at Ralph Lauren, moderated the panel of industry professionals which included Christina Zervanos, director of public relations at The Phluid Project, Kyle Andrew, chief marketing officer at American Eagle, Conor Kennedy, president of Muse Model Management, and Victoria Brito, model, dancer and influencer. 

The panel addressed questions on a variety of current matters as they relate to LGBTQ+ inclusion, diversity and representation in today’s fashion industry. Attendees viewed new ad campaigns from both Sephora and Lady Gaga’s Haus Beauty, discussing the future shifts of marketing, ad campaigns and media content resulting from an evolving consumer base. Sephora’s new campaign opens with a list of pronouns to celebrate the transgender and non-binary communities and the Haus Beauty ad features Lady Gaga and an inclusive cast of models. Kennedy observed, “I think it’s confusing for some people, for a portion of America. I think exposing them to that idea is really about everyone deserves the respect to self-identify. Some people catch on, some people don’t and some people catch on later. I think that it shows the power and beauty that advertising from a retailer can be. It’s like a little short movie that makes you think, you’re not really sure what all of the parts of it are but it’s very thought-provoking and I think it exposes a lot of people to the idea of pronouns which is very important to many people.”

Panelists also discussed how businesses can support the LGBTQ+ community in visible ways that are not only profitable, but also influential and meaningful. Andrew talked about American Eagle’s annual collection in support of Pride, with 100% of the proceeds going to It Gets Better. With this pledge to support the LGBTQ+ community also comes backlash from some of their consumers. As a mainstream brand, Andrew explained, they receive backlash any time they “step outside the lines,” but their Pride collection and promotion upsets consumers the most. She went on to say that it hasn’t stopped them and every year the campaign gets bigger with plans to expand and talk about it all year, not just during Pride. 

Kennedy added that the way companies treat their employees is just as important as their marketing. While marketing is geared toward capturing the consumer, companies can show they support, respect and understand the needs of the LGBTQ+ community through their internal policies, partnerships and hiring practices. Kennedy feels a company’s marketing should be a reflection of their internal culture and should show consumers they are also respected and supported because it is the company’s practice.

The evening concluded with an opportunity for panelists and attendees to make connections, mingle and continue the evening’s discussions. 

The NYC Studio is looking forward to its next panel in November on Body Positivity. This panel discussion by industry leaders will address body positivity, size and shape inclusion, the plus-size market and fashion industry representation. 

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Anna Mates, Outreach Program Manager, NYC Studio, 212-967-1730, amates@kent.edu 

POSTED: Thursday, September 19, 2019 - 3:20pm
UPDATED: Thursday, September 19, 2019 - 3:22pm