Luxury womenswear designer Christian Siriano says that big brands often “get in their own way” when it comes to embracing inclusivity in the fashion industry. Speaking to Tyra Banks and Aurora James at the TIME 100 Summit on Tuesday, Siriano criticized brands that market diversity without representing it in their clothing lines or models.
“It’s still a bit weird when we put curvy girls on the runway, and it’s shocking to people,” said Siriano, a TIME 100 honoree in 2018. “I’m like, ‘That’s so weird, why is it shocking?’ It’s very interesting to still get that feedback.”
Entrepreneur and supermodel Tyra Banks moderated the conversation between Siriano and James. She pointed out that both had founded companies that put fashion first—but also emphasize inclusivity and social-consciousness. “It is what your brands are,” she said.
James, the founder of luxury accessories brand Brother Vellies—who was a TIME 100 honoree in 2021—noted that when some brands “try to check boxes,” they do so only via marketing materials. “There’s a level of optical allyship happening,” she said. “There are a lot of designers that will put women of different sizes on the runway, but when you go shop the brand, there’s nothing. It’s only size 2 and size 4. That’s also problematic.”
James stressed the power that consumers have to purchase from brands that align with their values. “We work too hard in this country to not be able to put our dollars to work every single time we spend it,” she said. “Consumers want to know they’re spending money with brands that care about them and their values more than ever.”
James also spoke about the success of the 15% pledge she began in May 2020, calling on corporations and individual consumers to commit 15% of their purchasing power to Black-owned businesses. More than 28 retailers have taken the 15% Pledge, redirecting $10 billion in revenues to Black brands. It’s now one of the fastest growing nonprofits in the country, and one of the biggest drivers of Black entrepreneurial growth that the country has seen. “When people say, ‘It’s just fashion,’ we’re a lot more powerful than that,” James said. “We’re changing lives.”
The TIME 100 Summit is the live event extension of the annual TIME 100 list of the most influential people in the world. It convenes leaders from the global TIME 100 community to spotlight solutions and encourage action toward a better world. This year’s summit features a variety of impactful speakers across a diverse range of sectors, including politics, business, health and science, culture, and more.
Speakers for the 2022 TIME 100 Summit include Apple CEO Tim Cook, producer Mindy Kaling, filmmaker Taika Waititi, U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry, musician Jon Batiste, Barbadian Prime Minister Mia Mottley, NBA champion, entrepreneur, and philanthropist Dwayne Wade, former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, #MeToo founder Tarana Burke, ACLU deputy director for transgender justice Chase Strangio, Netflix head of global TV Bela Bajaria, author and poet Cathy Park Hong, Olympic freestyle skiing champion Eileen Gu, author, poet, and president of the Mellon Foundation Elizabeth Alexander, filmmaker Betsy West, filmmaker Julie Cohen, BioNTech SE senior vice president Dr. Katalin Karikó, Ukrayinska Pravda editor in chief Sevgil Musaieva, and TIME co-chair and Salesforce chair and co-CEO Marc Benioff.
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