The Future of Fashion: A Discussion Between Andre Ibi & Caryn Franklin MBE, Co-Founders of FACE

Andrew Ibi, co-founder of FACE and course leader at Liverpool John Mores University talks to Caryn Franklin, visiting professor of diverse selfhood at Kingston School of Art.

Tell us about FACE.

“The ultimate goal of FACE: Fashion Academics Creating Equality, is to embed culture and diverse perspectives into the curriculum and to demand acknowledgement of the contribution of Black culture and creativity, to history, society and of course to fashion. Academic protocol measures results and success of a course or institution in terms of achievements for students. FACE is proposing that institutions uphold a more inclusive practice by adding culture to the metric.”
How do FACE plan to move forward?

“Our aims propose measuring the content of culture, diversity and inclusion in the course, so that any student can feel empowered to fulfil their learning from their personal perspective. It’s for the educator to position themselves to be across a broader offer for our students in terms of culture. That’s why we are inviting all educators to join us in progressing change. FACE are particularly pleased to be accessing the member institutions of Graduate Fashion Foundation as we know we are talking to some of the best.”

How can individual academics support race equality conversations?

“A major stumbling block is the lack of confidence many people experience in talking about identity difference. When we are not confident because our own back-ground has not delivered opportunities for broadening our perspectives about race, gender, body difference, class or faith (as a starting point) we stay quiet. We even start defending. Why not start learning?
“When I’m trying to progress equality and diversity conversations, I become the problem, and this has got to stop. The whole room draws breath, there is a change of body language and facial expression. It’s clear that most really don’t want to hear the truth about the experience of their Black students or colleagues. Usually I’m on my own. Other Black colleagues tell me they also experience the feeling of intellectual isolation in these types of meetings. I’m asking you all to join us. We’ve just gotta face up to it together and move past the discomfort, towards change.”

How can institutions begin to effectively support race equality initiatives?

“Help us pressure the NSS. FACE feels this organisation has shown a lack of responsibility around Diversity, Inclusivity and Equality issues in their assessment criteria. If people are not represented or supported fairly, then the job is not being done properly. This leads us to ask - if race is not on the agenda, is this because it’s of no interest to anyone currently on that board?  If I’m on such a board, I’m going to be progressing that conversation and what if I miss that meeting? What happens to the discussion then? Hence the need for more Black perspectives in leadership.”

And so we come full circle. Final thoughts?

“Fashion is a broad subject with multi-narratives attached to it. Each university should be proudly commentating on the diverse make up of its department and its programme. Is your university recruitment, your board membership, your project presentation or module report paper-work inclusive and fair? Fashion underpinned by investigation into identity and a well-used language for identity and diversity in which everybody is able to participate, is the future as we see it at FACE.”