From Marc Jacobs' dreadlock-gate to Vogue's Geisha-themed editorial, many fashion brands have teetered between cultural celebration and appropriation very unsuccessfully — and they were met with a swift social media backlash. (If brands aren't being called out for cultural appropriation, it's because they are actually selling a culturally-insensitive product.) Tory Burch was one such brand. In March 2017, Burch's namesake label used a video campaign "#ToryStory: An American Roadtrip" featuring Poppy Delevingne and other fair-skinned models singing and dancing to "Juju On That Beat," which some took as yet another example of whitewashing Black music. The brand was quick in its response, though: within days, the clip had disappeared from its Youtube page and Instagram account.
Now, Tory Burch is making a public declaration about its commitment to cultural sensitivity. On Monday evening, the label posted an email memo from the designer on Instagram with the subject line "diversity & inclusivity." "From the very beginning," the note read, "I aspired to create a brand that was synonymous with humanity." According to the note, when Burch was growing up, her parents went "to great lengths to create a community with people from all walks of life," showing her siblings "first-hand that the similarities between us are far greater than our differences."
Now the 52-year-old wants to extend those same practices to her business and employees. "Today, we find ourselves living in a more complex world, and it has made me more passionate than ever about the importance of treating everyone with kindness, dignity, and respect," she continued in the email posted on Instagram. "Recently a number of companies have found themselves in the headlines as a result of an employee losing sight of this basic tenet. In the coming months we'll be rolling out diversity and inclusion training globally."
Until then, though, the designer is asking her company to uphold three principles: each action should align with the buddy system; how a person identifies racially, sexually, or otherwise should not influence how they are treated; and finally, if someone sees someone, anyone, being treated unfairly, they are to speak up.
The initiative is certainly noble, but some commenters were quick to call out that Burch could do a better job of creating the diversity she's seeking. " Hire more minority people then," user @youngbobster wrote under the post on Instagram. @2017shape wanted to know when Burch would expand such thinking to her existing product line, writing "How about expanding your clothing sizes to be more inclusive of all body types?" Added another: "There’s no diversity without inclusion. Allow your staff and models to reflect the core values of @ToryBurch, per your posting. #CorporateClimate and #Culture are a telling side of leadership."
We've reached out to Tory Burch for comment and will update this story if/when we hear back.