Representation, diversity, and democratization are important terms in just about every industry today, but for industries with major public image components, these topics are especially pertinent.
Fashion has been active in its attempts to diversify model rosters and offer sizing and styling that appeals to many different people. As for democratization, most progress has been made via social media in recent years, offering smaller brands the opportunity to catch on in a big way.
Art director and stylist Rebecca Dennett has been working to bring about change from within the fashion industry, and Artvoice was lucky enough to secure an interview with Dennett during the busy holiday season.
Dennett regularly directs main fashion stories, contributing to publications like Elle US, Vogue Spain, Allure, Grazia, The Violet Book, and The Sunday Times Style Magazine.
She also works directly with commercial clients, including world-class names like Bobbi Brown, Uniqlo, Pamela Hanson, Barneys New York, Heather Hazzan, Jens Ingvarsson, and Elizabeth Arden.
In our interview, Dennett commented on progress that’s currently being made in the fashion industry as well as areas where there is still ample room for improvement.
Thanks for joining us. Do you think major fashion brands are making an effort to be more inclusive, both in terms of models and sizing, styles, etc.?
Yes, I think in regard to model sizing there has been a noticeable shift happening over recent years, not to just include ‘curve’ models, which is usually a model over size US 12+, but models who are in the size range of a US 6-8 too, getting away from traditional size expectations from the 90s.
Since the Black Lives Matter movement really came into the spotlight with protests in the summer of 2020, there has been a noted change to be more inclusive and really focus on the inclusion of people of color. Within the fashion industry, respected editors have set up organizations that focus on representing and securing the advancement of black individuals within the fashion and beauty industries, for example, Black in Fashion Council.
How has your own styling work pushed boundaries?
I feel that my own work pushes boundaries because within my editorial work I always want to push the casting to include nontraditional models, and have size inclusion and represent people of color within the cast, but also in the creative team I am working with, I want to get different perspectives to create the best editorial team possible.
Do smaller designers now have more influence in the industry?
I think it would be a struggle to say they have as much influence as major brands, but with social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram, small brands have the ability to have a much wider reach than they ever have before.
What is something you’ve started to focus on more in your work?
I’ve started to create short styling videos, looking at my past editorial work, and picking an item of clothing from your closet and how to style it in a similar way to an editorial of mine. I want the videos to encourage people to use what they already have instead of buying more.
Do you think quarantine and social distancing impacted people’s desire to engage in fashion, putting together outfits, buying new clothes, etc.?
Yes, I think people are dressing in a more relaxed style these days. They aren’t going into the office every day anymore, so an item like a blazer isn’t really that useful. Athleisure brands like Varley have had a huge uptake in sales due to the pandemic and the change in how people dress. People want to feel comfortable and also comforted in uncertain times, so dressing with ease is a natural shift in how people dress.
Are there any brands you would like to highlight for doing really great work right now, especially when it comes to representation?
Christopher John Rogers is a brand I really admire. The clothes are beautiful and something women want to wear and his team is delightful. Also, Victoria’s Secret has had a real turnaround in recent months since hiring Vogue’s Raul Martinez.
What are some areas where you think the fashion industry could still improve?
I think the industry is changing but still has a long way to go. I think there needs to be a more permanent change within companies and job roles, not just putting a person of color on the front of the magazine or in the campaign, but who’s behind making that image? Who’s working at the brand? We need to make sure there is more representation of people of color at the fashion houses/brands and beauty companies behind these images.