LONDON — Daniel Peters — a seasoned marketer who cut his teeth at Burberry and Selfridges — wasn’t looking to launch a diversity consultancy when he left full-time employment at the end of 2019.
But having had extra time to take stock, and reflect on the fact that he was one of the only marketing executives of color in the boardrooms at work, he decided to re-route.
Peters created the Fashion Minority Report in the summer of 2020, following the murder of George Floyd.
“I just had that really stark realization that I’ve been one of a very few, in organizations like Burberry or the British Fashion Council, particularly when it came to roles outside security. There’s nothing wrong with security, but when you think about the glass ceiling, very few Black people have access to the creative side of things,” said Peters, who also runs the men’s brand Your Clothing Collective.
What started as an idea for a podcast and interview series with a diverse set of creatives quickly developed into a fully fledged operation.
Peters’ ultimate mission? To work toward making every part of the fashion sector more diverse.
He began working with students and young people to introduce them to industry opportunities, helping them understand that working in fashion could be a reality. Peters also runs workshops with companies like Farfetch, Pangaia, Dunhill and Joseph to empower employees to have a voice; help improve company culture, and assist these companies in hiring from a more diverse talent pool.
“After what happened with George Floyd, I started thinking about diversity from a holistic perspective, and I wanted to use what I call my professional privilege to grow and network. I started thinking: ‘How can we come together to create change in an industry and sector that we all love, but has been lacking when it comes to diversity and inclusion?'” he added.
Here, he talks to WWD about some of the findings from his work at Fashion Minority Report over the last two years, and his views on what still needs to change, on the frontlines and behind the scenes.
WWD: What are some of the spaces, apart from the catwalk, where brands and fashion professionals need to observe and diversify?
Daniel Peters: I love fashion week, that’s where I cut my teeth, but we need to be looking closer at all the different elements that go into creating that eight-minute showcase. Who is doing the hair and makeup of the models? We’re often hearing about models who were doing their own makeup because the makeup artist didn’t have a palette to suit their complexion, or that their hair was being mistreated.
Who are the photographers in the pit? I think there is an old guard of photographers who are in the pits, and I don’t see any diversity there. It’s also not just about the front row, but about who is in all of the rows. Who are the people who are given access to tickets? Which organizations are doing the PR for your fashion shows? We need to diversify and not just go with the gatekeepers who are still leading. Bureau Betak is brilliant, but how often do I see an ethnic minority events producer? We need to start to bring in a bit of a new guard.
WWD: Do fashion institutions and educators have a role to play in fostering diversity?
D.P.: Education has a huge role to play, and when you dig deeper, it’s often the parents and the teachers at the schools where these young people are going [who are telling them] they can’t do a particular role because it’s not built for them, or because they know there is not enough money for their child to potentially succeed in those fields.
But there is a great deal of money in the fashion industry, and parents [often] don’t understand how you could succeed. All they can see is the designers in Vogue magazine, but we need to introduce students from a young age to all the different opportunities they can tap into. You can be a data scientist, a social media manager or a garment technician. There’s this notion of being a fashion designer as the be-all-end-all of getting into the industry.
WWD: How is the Fashion Minority Report working toward change?
D.P.: For me, it was instrumental to include a mentoring program when setting up the business.
We currently take on 18- to 27-year-old students from diverse backgrounds and focus on those who come from lower socioeconomic backgrounds or receive free school meals. We work with different brand partners for each cohort. This year, we are working with the British Fashion Council, All Saints, Lazy Oaf and Orlebar Brown.
By the end of each program, each of our brand partners would have offered one paid internship opportunity, giving our mentees the opportunity to get into the offices of these companies for two to six months, work on projects and briefs alongside professionals and grow their network and skill set. For me, it’s just so important that we create these opportunities because they allow for a 360-degree approach as to how we bolster the industry with more diverse talent.
WWD: Is offering paid internships something that the industry as a whole should move toward?
D.P.: If we can charge 1,000 pounds for a coat or a dress, then we can very much offer somebody a London Living Wage in order to help our businesses to succeed. We talk a lot about burnout in general, but somebody who is an intern has to go and take a second paid job in order to survive — that’s where there’s a big problem. People who come from diverse communities, in particular, might often have to pay a substantial amount of money to help their family to survive. When we don’t take these things into consideration, we are putting up more barriers for people from those communities, not allowing them to even consider an internship. Just covering transport and lunch is a token gesture: These young people have bills to pay, they might need to buy food to put into the fridge for their working-class family. We don’t have those realities ingrained in our minds as industry.
WWD: In addition to fair compensation, what are some practical steps that companies can take to ensure they are hiring from more diverse talent pools?
D.P.: We’ve come from this space where it was all about who you or your family knows in order for you to get a job in the industry, but we are moving away from that. We need to be posting jobs and sharing job information in different spaces because, at the moment, we are making the assumption that everybody is a graduate of a university.
Some of the language that we use is so limiting for people: We say you must be a graduate, you must have this experience. But if these young people are not given an opportunity, how can they have the experience?
I also hear that diverse talent isn’t out there. We are out there, whether that’s diversity in terms of ethnicity, gender or sexuality, the talent’s out there; companies just need to dig a little bit deeper.
Introducing the conversation a bit earlier is what’s going to help influence people, too: Telling them that if they love maths they can become a merchandiser, for instance. We’ve got to look at how we are selling these opportunities to younger people.
WWD: Can you talk about the new initiative you will be introducing to help educate young people about different industry opportunities?
D.P.: We are launching a careers and development hub, which will be a mixture of online and offline resources. Online, you’ll find a curated resource of articles and interviews and toolkits, which will help diverse talent to thrive but we are also going to be running in-person “Introduction to industry” sessions for secondary school students, which we hope will be starting after Easter and running through the summer. Our summer program will run for two weeks for about 40 young people to come in and just learn about the industry by getting hands-on. We’ll be looking at topics such as sustainability, upcycling a garment or creating a magazine of the future. From there, they can gain an understanding of the different roles that are available to them.
WWD: What are some of the recurring issues you see from the workshops you run with clients’ employees?
D.P.: We’re seeing that people from ethnic minority backgrounds, as well as women, fear being stuck in junior positions for much longer than they should be there. They might be given some reinforcements from the business and good performance reviews, but they’re not seeing themselves on the same level as some of their counterparts. Often those people have to leave those companies because they are not progressing, which creates one of the biggest problems in corporations.
They are losing incredible talent [that] is already there because they are not building them up. This glass ceiling has been one of the most recurring themes across the fashion industry. But how do we shatter it without paying lip service to people? We need to invest in offering people personal development opportunities. No matter how small your company is, you need to have some practice in place for young employees to track their progress.
WWD: Are there any more general mind-set shifts that still need to take place, especially inside big corporations?
D.P.: We shouldn’t be triggered by change, we need to be progressive in our thoughts and in our processes. We are trying to make things equitable, meaning more people get a shared piece of the pie and the industry looks less homogenous.
A lot of companies often say that they need to hire super-quickly so they don’t have the time to look for diverse talent, but they just need to start working with different organizations in the recruitment space. We keep on making excuses, but we need to take a step back and look at what we’ve been doing wrong. Even when you look at numbers and which companies perform better, they all have more diverse team members.