Fashion Business Owner Musings: Thinking about Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Your Small Fashion Business

If you’re a startup fashion brand that wants to be committed to building a fashion business that is diverse, equal, and inclusive, then this post is for you.

If you’re wondering “Where do I start?” then keep reading.

But before I continue, I need to begin by saying, I am NOT an expert in diversity, equity, and inclusion. For that, I ask you to follow or hire an expert, such as Erica Courdae.

But I know you all look to me for guidance with your fashion businesses. I also know that many of you have very limited funds right now and are trying to figure out how to create a business that is diverse and inclusive, even if you’re a very small operation (i.e. a one-person show!).

I imagine that as a small startup fashion business you probably don’t have a lot of extra money to donate to all the organizations that you believe in.

I also imagine that you probably aren’t yet at the point where you are hiring a lot (if any) people where you can be creating more diversity within your team.

But, if the outpouring of messages I have received from so many of you is any indication, you want to do more to create a business that uses its platform and its influence for good. And you want to do more to be contributing to a diverse, equal, and inclusive world.

So I’m going to help you the best way I know how.

To start, do an assessment of your business. Ask yourself the questions that I’ve listed below and really think about the answers, even when they feel uncomfortable.

  • What is the mission of my business?
  • Are there blind spots that I have around that mission as it pertains to the BIPOC community and other marginalized communities?
  • What message does my business spread?
  • Are there blind spots that I have around that message as it pertains to the BIPOC community and other marginalized communities?
  • What values do I hold as a human being that I want to make sure exist within my business?
  • Is it clear from the imagery and language on my website and other platforms I use that a diverse community of people are welcome and served equally by my business?
  • As I explore collaborations with other businesses and influencers, am I asking them the hard questions about their own stance on diversity and inclusion?

Next, once you answer those questions, use the responses to create a list of the changes you can make immediately within your businesses and a list of the changes that you will implement in the near future (if there are people you can’t afford to hire yet or a program you want to join when you have more funds, etc.)

If it helps, here is the StartUp FASHION DEI Policy that we created this week. Read it. Use it. Copy it, if you want to. You may not be ready for everything on this list but hopefully, it gives you a place to start.

I wrote the above message on the afternoon of Wednesday, 6/10/20. Then coincidentally, at 6pm that same day, I watched this Small Business Re-imagined Town Hall. And I learned a lot. I signed the pledge. And I’m going to suggest that you watch it too.

As I mentioned, I am not an expert and would never pretend to be. I just wanted to share how I’ve spent the last week thinking and making changes. And I hope it helps you to do the same.

Every step we take in the right direction makes a difference. Don’t let the fact that you’re a small startup be an excuse for not doing the work.

Lots of love and encouragement,


Nicole Giordano

Nicole is the founder of StartUp FASHION, an online resource and community supporting for independent designers around the world with building their businesses. A deep love for the craft of fashion paired with an adamant belief that success is defined by the individual, led her to found StartUp FASHION, where she helps independent designers and makers screw the traditional fashion business rules, create their own paths, and build businesses they truly love. More than anything else, she’s in the business of encouragement and works every day to remind makers and designers that they have something special to offer the world and that they can, in fact, do this thing!

  1. Jasana Uandia

    Very educative and interesting reading

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