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Zalando, Burberry Back UK Incubator Promoting Diversity and Inclusion in Fashion

Industry insiders are coming together to create opportunities for underrepresented groups in fashion.

The Outsiders Perspective, a new initiative founded by Roksanda CEO Jamie Gill, seeks to provide education and mentorship for people of color looking to develop careers in fashion. Backed by Burberry, the British Fashion Council, the Mayor of London’s office, Deloitte, Karla Otto and Zalando, the program offers mentees knowledge about sales, marketing, merchandising, operations, digital, finance and HR. It will also help participants connect with industry leaders and brands looking for diverse talent.

Gill said the “urgency” of fashion’s need for equity motivated him to develop The Outsiders Perspective. “Over the last decade, progression in terms of diverse visual representation has been made,” he said. Models of different ethnicities, genders and disability status gracing ad campaigns and runway shows “create the appearance of inclusion.” But “whilst the external faces of fashion may look and feel different, those working behind the scenes has barely changed,” Gill added.

Gill cited two factors he believes are responsible for low diversity. For one, “fashion is not seen is a viable career avenue by many ethnic minority communities due to several cultural and social mobility factors,” he said. Plus, an industry long reliant on exclusivity “has not historically welcomed ‘Outsiders.’”

The industry landscape is also changing. “Aside from the macro fashion brands, most of the industry is made of [small and medium enterprise] brands,” he said. Large brands require different skill sets than smaller labels, and “there is no clear professional training ground for sourcing operational talent to run fashion brands,” he added.

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Gill looked to his own experience in fashion. Before being appointed chief executive at luxury womenswear label Roksanda, he was a manager at Deloitte and co-founded a bridal couture brand.

Interested candidates can apply at TheOutsidersPerspective.org, and a shortlist will be created by mid-October. Prospects will complete a video interview, with final candidates confirmed in early November.

The program will feature three evening workshops featuring industry experts and executives exploring the current climate of the fashion industry in the U.K., the challenges facing modern brands and top business models.

A second phase of workshops will focus on merchandising, sales, supply chain, finance, digital, marketing, public relations, legal and human resources to set participants up for success in the sector.

At the end of the program, participants will work on solving a theoretical business challenge facing fashion companies. The group will also introduce mentees to U.K. brands looking to hire.

“There is enough evidence out there that supports the business case for diverse talent, but brands are struggling to find the team,” Gill said. “The Outsiders Perspective will offer a solution.”

“By partnering up with the The Outsiders Perspective, we want to highlight the importance of supporting POC talent in the fashion industry,” Zalando said in a statement.