Is there room to change the fashion industry if nothing else in the world is changing? During Lindsay Peoples Wagner’s time as fashion editor of The Cut, she wrote an article titled, “Everywhere and Nowhere What It’s Really Like to be Black and Work in Fashion.” The viral survey of “100 Black individuals, from assistants to executives, stylists, celebrities, models, and everyone in between” was not only a testament to Peoples Wagner’s love of the industry, but how much the industry wanted to reject people like her.
Fast forward three years: After a stint as editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue (and two appearances on The Root’s TGU50) the 2020 The Root 100 honoree is now editor-in-chief of The Cut and making waves in the industry. She has openly laid out her agenda for the magazine in a letter titled “Is There Room for Fashion Criticism in a Racist Industry,” which was published on The Cut on August 30. According to Fashionista, Peoples Wagner has “made it clear that she wants to use her new platform to highlight difficult discussions about the industry’s shortcomings around race.”
“I wanted to expand the range of who felt welcome in our conversations and who saw themselves in our stories,” she writes in her 2021 letter and she points out the industry has yet to find a way to not be racist. The models on the runway are becoming more diverse and the billboards in Times Square no longer only feature white people, but Peoples Wagner knows it’s not enough.
Among those she spoke to for the piece is The Root’s Editor-in-Chief, Vanessa De Luca, who has seen how the industry has slowly fallen apart and become more and more hostile for Black individuals. “White people get a lot of chances to fail fast and keep it moving,” she said. “And we don’t always get that same consideration.”
Nevertheless, as Peoples Wagner notes:
The small moves fashion has made toward greater inclusion — even someone like me being in a job like this — have happened only because people are willing to have tough conversations. This fashion issue isn’t so much about “shaking the table”; we’re building a new table, one constructed on a foundation of respect for those who have come before us and for those leading us into the future. It is elevated, diverse, glamorous — and led by women of color.
Lindsay Peoples Wagner’s full letter can be read on The Cut now.