February 11, 2022

The team that worked on Hollywood's inclusion rider developed a template specifically for fashion, to encourage and facilitate more diverse hiring practices at every level of a production.

Over the past few years, the term "inclusion rider" has gained a lot of attention in Hollywood, thanks to various initiatives and big names pushing it to the forefront of the conversation around representation across the industry, both in front of and behind the camera. Now, the team that brought it to life has its sights set on fashion.

On Thursday, #ChangeFashion, the initiative created by Color Of Change in partnership with IMG and Joan Smalls in 2021, announced an inclusion rider specifically for the fashion industry, developed with the co-authors of the original: Kalpana Kotagal, partner at Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll; Fanshen Cox, president of TruJuLo Productions; Dr. Tasmin Plater, head of human resources for Endeavor Content.

An inclusion rider is an addendum to a contract that "sets forth a process for hiring to expand and diversify the candidate pool," Kotagal explains, in an e-mail. It "can be adopted by an individual with leverage and used in contract negotiations, or it can be adopted as a hiring policy by a studio, production company, network, etc. In this situation, the inclusion rider would be applied across a whole slate of movies, TV shows, fashion shows and productions to advance equitable hiring practices."

Fashion's inclusion rider will officially be introduced at the In the Blk group show during New York Fashion Week, which is being put on by #ChangeFashion. (This will also be the first event to implement its values in the production.) Amity Paye, senior director of communications for Color Of Change, sees it as "an invitation to artists, modeling agencies, fashion magazines, designers, photographers, stylists and talent to step into their full power as culture makers and take action to ensure the industry is working toward racial justice rather than against it."

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The main difference between this inclusion rider and the one used in other industries — namely, Hollywood and music — is that there are specific considerations for the talent involved in making a fashion production come to life, from the models to the stylist, lighting and production teams behind the scenes. There are also acknowledgments of the ways colorism, sizeism and appropriation have historically permeated fashion and impacted hiring practices.

"The fashion rider reflects engagement and ongoing work with IMG and industry experts, and is tailored to the way fashion week works, starting with that initial conversation between designer, producer and casting director to envision the show," Kotagal says. "Principles of diversity, equity and inclusion and an intersectional lens inform the process for casting models — go-sees, digital comp cards, and other efforts to actively expand the pool of potential models — and the process for hiring behind the scenes in makeup and hair, lighting and other production jobs."

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For an inclusion rider to be successful, Kotagal argues, the parties involved need to consider "four key elements": "a commitment to deepening and diversifying hiring pools; establishing benchmarks for improving diversity of representation through hiring qualified people; collecting and measuring applicant and hiring data; and adopting meaningful accountability measures that contribute to improving representation moving forward."

"It's not enough to adopt the inclusion rider without a clear commitment to properly implementing it," she says. "Engaging with it as a tool takes time, hard work and detail-orientation, and reflects a commitment to the longer process of making hiring practices more equitable. This is what it takes to change the status quo."

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Crucially, what IMG Focus is hoping to offer is a blueprint for an inclusion rider at work in fashion.

"For next season, in September, we're going to release a guide for how anybody can use the inclusion rider, because our goal is to make it completely open source," says Ratnam, noting that it'll be similar to the implementation tool kit for Hollywood studios available on inclusionrider.org, which Endeavor also wrote, addressing things as minute as language around certain questions, surveys for collecting data and organizations that can help sort through resumes. "What we want to do is take all the hard work we did to make this possible at a company like ours, and make sure that anybody at any company can use it as an example."

The publishing of the fashion inclusion rider is one step in the larger roadmap towards necessary systemic change in the industry. So it's important to get as many people on board as possible.

"The fashion industry is notorious for using Black culture and style to build business and sell products — this is not embracing representation or inclusion, especially when those leading the work lack diversity," writes Kotagal. "By properly implementing and engaging with the inclusion rider, the fashion industry has an opportunity to be reflective and supportive of the people and cultures that it gets its inspiration from. As a woman of color myself and someone who has loved fashion, having the fashion industry expand its frame to include people who look like me and so many others is personally deeply gratifying."

The complete article can be viewed here.