Christian Siriano and Aurora James: Brands ‘Get in Their Own Way’ Instead of Embracing Inclusivity

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. Siriano criticised brands that don’t represent diversity in models and clothing, speaking to Tyra bankss at the TIME 100 Summit Tuesday.

“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.”

Tyra Banks (entrepreneur and supermodel) moderated the conversation between Siriano & 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 highlighted the consumer’s power to choose brands that reflect 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 talked about the 15 percent pledge that she launched in May 2020. This called on consumers, corporations and businesses to dedicate 15% of their buying power towards Black-owned enterprises. The 15% Pledge has been taken by more than 28 retailers, which have redirected over $10 billion dollars in revenue to Black businesses. 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.”

TIME 100 Summit, an extension to the TIME 100 annual list of influential people around the globe is a live event. This summit gathers global leaders from TIME 100 to discuss solutions and promote action for 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 Sevgil Muzaieva, editor in chief of TIME and Salesforce chairs and co-CEO Marc Benioff is also the editor.

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