How Inclusive Stylist is Changing Representation Behind the Scenes

Photography courtesy of Instagram / @ asiafiasco via @inclusivestylisttoronto

“It’s a way for people emerging in the industry to know they’re not alone.

While there has been a greater push in recent years for more diversity in front of the camera, the people working in teams that design and create fashion, film and television content are still disproportionately white and male.

This is where Inclusive Stylist, a mentoring-focused program launched by Toronto creatives Vanessa Magic and Georgia Groom, is emerging as a real agent of change. The idea for the initiative was inspired by the duo’s experience of being on set and recognizing the lack of BIPOC individuals in their crews.

“A few years ago I was sitting on set one day and looked around, and the only person of color was talent,” Groom recalls. “I do not know if [Vannessa and I] we had talked about it then, but it was something we both noticed and it was becoming more and more evident.

After a phone call between contributors – both of whom have impressive resumes and industry accolades in writing, commercial, film and television – to discuss this pervasive inequality, Inclusive Stylist was born. .

Its main objective is to enlighten, connect and empower emerging creatives who seek to access the notoriously nepotistic world of image creation. “When I started out, I didn’t have much of a chance,” Magic says of her years as a fledgling costume designer. “One opportunity I had was to ask someone to take a chance on me, and say yes. I think when you’re new to the industry you meet a lot of resistance. “

To combat the prevalence of closed doors that many people encounter when trying to make a name for themselves in creative contexts, Inclusive Stylist began offering access to a series of digital speakers this summer that included talents like stylists Bobby Bowen, Nadia Pizzimenti, Cynthia Florek, Michelle Lyte, Nicole Manek and Tricia Hall; Toronto Indigenous Fashion Week founder Sage Paul; and award-winning costume designer, Gersha Phillips.

The purpose of the Mini Mentor programming was to highlight the idea that “if you can see it, you can be”, as Groom puts it. It is this principle that guides the content and networking opportunities that she and Magic continue to develop, such as showcasing the work of their mentees like Eyob Desalgne, Charlene Akuamoah and Sanatanae Luzige on social media, and helping mentees. to meet and learn from more established creatives. These aspects are especially crucial during quarantine, Magic notes, as such experiences aren’t as accessible offline at the moment.

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Photograph courtesy of Instagram / @ inclusivestylisttoronto.

In addition to equipping mentees with relevant skills and relationships, Magic notes that there are elements of systemic racism they need to listen to in order to be emotionally and mentally prepared for work. “As a black stylist, I fear that I will be followed around the mall or be asked for ID if I use someone else’s credit card for production purchases,” says -she. “These are things that other people don’t have to think about.”

Although Inclusive Stylist was born out of Magic and Groom’s disappointment in their industry, they make it clear that its existence is meant to be a positive solution to a serious problem. “We want to call people instead of calling them,” Magic says. “[People] I have to admit that things have been messed up and that needs to change. But to that end, she rightly adds that privilege has allowed these inequitable systems to continue to function. “It’s always marginalized people who help marginalized people progress,” she says. “It’s never the people at the top of the system,” Groom notes, are usually white men.

“And you have to start at the top,” Groom continues, noting that while modeling agencies brought more color models to their boards, movie unions controlled more POCs and stylist agencies represented a list. more diverse clientele of talents and their diktats will continue to be difficult to change without those who have had access to creative spaces speak out.

A step in leading the fashion, film and television industries – and all other industries as well – towards balance is that those who are currently active there are aware of inequity and informed of injustice, so that they are more prepared to do something. “If you are someone who takes advantage of the current system you have to think about it, what can I do to make this fairer?” Groom said. And she adds that we need to banish the idea that someone else’s gain is another’s loss to make equality a reality. “If it’s fair to all of us, that doesn’t mean it’s unfair to you.”

It’s this idea that is at the heart of Inclusive Stylist’s efforts, and Magic emphasizes the importance of community thinking in how we approach creating sets as a place where everyone in attendance feels welcomed and valued. “It’s a way for people emerging in the industry to know that they are not alone, that there is a community behind them and that they want to see them succeed.

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