Inclusion's New Frontiers : Hijab and Skin Tone : Macy's, Adidas, Nike, Fenty Beauty, Christian Louboutin in Review

Credits: Stephen Lovekin/WWD/REX/Shutterstock / Adidas Originals NYFW Show: Kendall Jenner, Diversity and a Hijab

Hijab - The Symbol of Inclusion

"Rather than the young man in a hoodie we associate with Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, in the Muslim world you are more likely to encounter a young woman in a headscarf" Quoting - Forbes 

A tech-savvy generation of Muslim women driving global growth

Changing social norms because of heightened awareness and education have been the key driver of growth for many international brands. My clients include global fashion and luxury brands, corporations, start-ups, non-profits, social entrepreneurs and foundations and they seek people who can communicate a measurable change in driving key initiatives and important diversity topics amongst others. 

They seek role models who can emphasize on outcomes and quantifiable result in tackling collective challenges to diversity and inclusion. Collective, because the inequities get resolved by the collaboration of people engaged in a collective thought process and operating across different target communities - sans grouping, monoculturalization or prioritizing representation of any kind.

In their quest to seek the right role models to drive change and create a positive impact by creating a culture of inclusivity for communities, organizations are sending a clear message to the outside world that they are committed to the greater good through their equality and diversity policies thereby gaining considerable competitive advantages in new markets and new customer segments as consumers respond more positively to organizations for their services, and brands for their products - that are more people-driven, diverse in thought and practice, more accepting, empathetic towards greater inclusion of everyone and not just someone, especially the underrepresented cohort.

I am able to guide my clients not just on Branding & Inclusive Communications but I also help them develop their Brand Story and Visual Language across Print & Digital, then amplify it 📢 to Diverse Customers & Talent globally🌎


However, my work takes me far deeper from the surface level. For For instance, I was asked to give inputs and comment on some data by Oxford Strategic Consulting that highlights the trends towards productivity during the fasting period of Ramadan – citing a report, where during a miners’ strike in the 1970s, production fell by just 6% despite working three-day weeks. 

Studies suggested that employees spending more time with families during this period can actually make them happier at work, as well as instill a stronger focus on the effectiveness of work rather than the number of hours worked, thus helping company culture. I was asked to enlist my diversity & inclusion policies and how I would support employees who are fasting, without letting this impact productivity. So my role is beyond conceptualizing a messaging and outreach strategy, it also focuses on creating a positive brand experience, impactful and inclusive conversations inside and out!

When breaking into newer market and customer segments, brands often consult with experts on strategy, conceptualization, research to have a deeper understanding of the viability and ROI of that endeavor. 

This Concept to Consumer strategy leads me into deciphering the Diversity DNA of other global brands, especially brands like Macy's, Adidas, Nike, Fenty Beauty, Christian Louboutin as we see from the most recent examples of what I am trying to convey. 

How do these brands expand into a diverse consumer base? 

By creating role models, amplifying collaborations, and launching a product line specifically created for that demographic. Adidas, Nike, and Macy's has perfected this art. 

By collaboration and broadcasting their inclusive mindset, they have successfully tapped into a consumer segment that is diverse.

Consider this example below and you would understand the concept better: Ruqsana is a champion kickboxer who created a way for Muslim women, to access sport. She designed a line of sports hijabs to make it easier to be active, and show the world all that they can do.

Count on athleisure to be inclusive - Adidas Originals NYFW Show: Kendall Jenner, Diversity and a Hijab.

Nike's almost similar campaign  - Nike Pro Hijab 



The idea that works now are moving far beyond market segmentation to micro-segmentation. Sometimes, Brands stick to an idea but go wrong in the messaging often hurting the sensibilities or religious sentiments, often stereotyping and often, in addition, leading the competition to create a far better branding and diverse customer reach out. 
Macy's launched a new collection of modest clothing targeted at Muslim women including hijabs amidst some backlash. A Business Insider article dwells into this, quoting:

"The collection has led to some backlash online as customers claim that the retailer is promoting a symbol of oppression for women. In some Muslim-majority countries, women are required to cover up by law"

I personally think it is less about promoting a symbol of oppression for women and more about the desire/ability/lack of ability to be adaptable / attitudes to change - i.e. the need to look beneath the cover, to go beyond "treat others as you would like to be treated" instead it is the ability to "treat others as they would like [need!] to be treated" to be able to find a win: win / mutual benefit - irrespective of the Hijab in question here (Partly quoting words from my LinkedIn connection: Karena Freeman)

Diverse Range of Skin Tones - Different Strokes for Different Folks!

There is a great divide brands are witnessing: Celebrity endorsements that are boastful with vapid self-proclamations of me-myself-mine and all its frivolity versus endorsements from real-world practitioners who recognize the sensitivities of a diverse customer who is less likely to perceive bias if the endorsements are from someone from a diverse demographic background. They endorse or create the product because they value it themselves and that brings in authenticity in their endorsement and optimizes all the differences our world offers. Rihanna launched her new makeup line, Fenty Beauty. This is a great example of how the diversity of purpose can lead to the success of any product. The Fenty Beauty line includes 40 shades of foundation to accommodate women of different complexions all over the world. The diversity in its product range is the most noteworthy attribute, obviously, the quality of the product in addition to being launched by Rihanna adds to Fenty Beauty's credibility. Many other beauty brands since then have launched deeper foundation shades. 

Similarly, Christian Louboutin 🔝launched a line of pumps in seven shades of nude fully aware that a customer’s beliefs powers their perception. Their perception powers buying behavior. Perceptions vary from customer to customer. Empowered brands empower their customer by not generalizing, by valuing differences, and hence they attract diverse customers, they innovate, they grow, they expand, and they retain!

- Amit Anand