It was just over a year ago that I wrote a blog post about our ongoing commitment to improving representation in the sewing world, not only regarding body size and shape, but also BIPOC, and specifically Black, sewists. I wanted to write an update on what progress we’ve made since then against our goals, and highlight some areas that we’re still actively working to improve.
- Model diversity. Last time I wrote, 29% of our models were BIPOC and 36% of our patterns had a BIPOC model featured, and our goal was to include at least one BIPOC model for each pattern moving forward. In the past 12 months, we met that goal: 100% of our new patterns featured at least one BIPOC model, and overall, 47% of our models were BIPOC. We are also actively working on increasing the diversity of body sizes shown on our covers, and the amount of models over the age of 50.
- Highlight and showcase garments from BIPOC makers. We changed our internal criteria in the past year, to actively seek out more BIPOC makers to feature, and have consistently done so, particularly in our fabric store partnerships which have all featured multiple BIPOC sewists.
- Feature more BIPOC makers on our blog. In what has been a very busy year, we have done less content on the blog, with most of it focusing on our new launches. As mentioned above, between our models and fabric store partnerships we have featured lots of BIPOC sewists on that platform, but in the future if and when we expand our blog content we’ll be sure to include a diversity of people.
Allocating our spending
- Marketing. While we have a very limited marketing budget, we were pleased to advertise on the Un:Cut podcast (as well as me appearing on an episode!) this year.
- Suppliers. Over the last 12 months we’ve been thrilled to source amazing fabrics from several BIPOC-owned suppliers, including Melanated Fabrics (you will recognise their fabric on the cover of the Roseclair Dress!) and Sister Mintaka (lots of the forthcoming book patterns feature their great selection).
- Fabric partnerships. We were so pleased to do an amazing collaboration with Melanated Fabrics for the launch of the Roseclair Dress, which you can check out here.
- Testers. For the first time, we added an optional identity question on our tester application form, to allow us to proactively include a diversity of testers in each round. While a lot of testing depends on people’s individual availability, we have consistently been able to include BIPOC makers in every pattern tested over the past year.
- Feedback group. We mentioned a plan last year to create a customer feedback group – this hasn’t happened, simply because we’ve been super busy in this unusual pandemic year – but if and when it does, we will recruit a diverse group of people.
- Recruitment. Three people joined our team this year, including our first BIPOC employee. We remain a predominantly white team (albeit diverse in other ways), and over time as the team hopefully grows, we aim to diversify further.
- Education. This got off to a good start, with the team reading on anti-racism and having good discussions, but we didn’t keep the pace up. We will re-engage, and in particular learn and share more about the overlooked history of the Black women who pioneered the body activism movement, which is a specialist research topic of one of our new employees.
- Assessment and reflection. We added our diversity strategy to our weekly team meeting agenda and regularly review where we are – this has been a helpful tool in keeping these goals front of mind and continuing to make progress.
So, I’m pleased to report the progress we have made in some areas, while also acknowledging that there’s a long way to go both at Cashmerette and in the sewing community at large. We are always open to feedback, so if you have any other ideas about how we can champion the BIPOC, and particularly Black, sewing community, we would love to hear from you.