It turns out America’s biggest magazines aren’t the only businesses in the fashion industry suffering from a lack of representation. Earlier this week, clothing retailer Revolve came under fire after its Instagram followers noticed the absence of non-white and plus-size women on its #RevolveAroundTheWorld trip to Phuket, Thailand (instead, the guest list included bloggers like Aimee Song, Camila Coelho, and Sincerely, Jules). As a result, people took to the comments section of the store's Instagram account, criticizing the company for its lack of diversity both on the trip as well as on its site and social media feeds, sparking the hashtag #RevolveSoWhite.
When plus-size blogger and social justice advocate Valerie Eguavoen came across a series of images from the trip, she just couldn't keep her feelings to herself. As she wrote on her blog, she was “immediately disturbed by the blatant exclusion of darker-skinned women, and the ridiculous addition of the rap lyrics to the caption.” Shocked, but not surprised. As she put it: “This time, I had had enough of the crap, so I decided to share my opinions with my platform of 10K followers,” she wrote. “I had addressed racial justice issues on there before, but nothing relating specifically to the fashion industry. To be honest, I felt like I had nothing to lose but the constant lack of considerations from many brands and fashion houses. As @fumitoronto plainly put it, 'Staying silent to not f**k up the deal you’re probably never going to get because no one says anything, does nothing. If you have a platform, do what you can!'”
Here’s what happened next: First Instagram account @Diet_Prada reposted her Instagram story, calling out Revolve (as well as Aimee Song’s response about there not being a prolific amount of bloggers of color to choose from), and the messages support kept pouring in. So much so that Eguavoen decided to start an Instagram page called @YouBelongNow, dedicated solely to highlighting influencers who work hard to produce content but are consistently overlooked because of the color of their skin, their ethnicity, their religion, their gender, or their size.
“This started up two days ago as my responses to the Revolve trip,” Eguavoen tells Refinery29, “[but] really, this is [the result of] years and years of challenging the industry. People are tired of seeing themselves excluded from a lot of opportunities.” But she makes it clear that this isn’t just about excluding Black women on a sponsored trip to Thailand. “It’s not about Revolve, it’s not about just the fashion industry,” she adds. “It’s about society in general. Racism [and] colorism are so pervasive, everywhere around the world, not just in the United States. It’s really about talking about inclusion, outside and in every part of everything we do.”
And though she says Revolve would benefit from taking a hard look at itself — specifically “at the people who are making decisions,” like determining brand’s aesthetic for social feeds and who goes on the sponsored trips — @YouBelongNow is more so about showing off influencers who are representative of our society.
“I really want people to feel hope and [to know] if they speak out, their voices will be heard,” Eguavoen says of the platform’s mission. “Your voices will be heard. Speak your truth. You have to speak up because it’s an unfair burden for [a few] people to advocate for an entire group of people but if we all do it, then we’re sharing the load.”