Chanel Appoints New Diversity and Inclusion Leader "to Create Momentum"

Actress Ali MacGraw at Chanel’s J12 watch campaign event in Paris in May 2019-Publicity-H 2019
Courtesy of Chanel

Fiona Pargeter, former head of diversity and inclusion for Swiss bank UBS, will join Chanel “to create momentum for our efforts,” according to a spokesperson, part of a growing movement by luxury fashion brands to focus on diversity.

Chanel is growing its diversity and inclusivity efforts as other luxury fashion brands, including Prada, Gucci and Burberry, have done in the past year, many times as a response to backlash for culturally insensitive or racist products and campaigns.

“Fiona Pargeter just joined the company in the position of head of Diversity and Inclusion to evolve our existing diversity and inclusion approach,” a Chanel spokesperson told The Hollywood Reporter. (Pargeter most recently headed up a diversity and inclusion division for Swiss bank UBS.) “Diversity and Inclusion has been led for a couple of years in our People and Organization function by our people communication and engagement leader. Fiona has been hired to continue to create momentum for our efforts. This recruitment is a sign of our commitment to these topics and its importance to the house.”

Chanel’s J12 luxury timepiece campaign in April notably featured a cast of diverse women including 80-year-old actress Ali MacGraw, Keira Knightley, Claudia Schiffer, Lily-Rose Depp, supermodels Naomi Campbell and Liu Wen and French actresses Vanessa Paradis, Anna Mouglalis and Carole Bouquet. While it has not recently come under fire, the company has had its own share of controversies in the past, dating to a 1994 couture dress embroidered with verses from the Quran.

The move by Chanel follows similar shifts at other luxury fashion brands, although Chanel is notably different as not being a crisis response. In February, Prada introduced a Diversity and Inclusion Council, co-chaired by filmmaker Ava DuVernay and artist Theaster Gates, after releasing a “blackface” keychain. Also in February, Burberry launched diversity initiatives (including employee training and an advisory board) after showing a “noose hoodie” on the fall 2019 runway.

In March, Gucci announced its Gucci Changemakers program dedicated to diversity (with a $5 million fund to aid communities of color and a $1.5 million scholarship program in North America) after its “blackface” balaclava sweaters were pulled from stores. Yet in May, the company came under fire once again for cultural appropriation after peddling an $800 “Indy full turban” that resembled a Sikh headdress. The buzzy fashion company does not seem to have lost any steam in terms of its Hollywood supporters, however.

Last November, Italian luxury fashion brand Dolce & Gabbana suffered financial losses after releasing a marketing video series on Instagram and YouTube titled “Eating With Chopsticks” that showed an Asian model attempting to eat Italian food with chopsticks, followed by racially offensive comments by designer Stefano Gabbana on Instagram. The ads were pulled and an apology was issued by the company, but they are a bit of an elephant in the room in the circle of companies touting diversity initiatives.

While many retailers dropped Dolce & Gabbana and stars stopped wearing the label on the red carpet for a short period, it seems that the brand is back in business in Hollywood. As The New York Times reported on the brand’s resurrection last month, Emilia Clarke stepped out in a red Dolce & Gabbana gown at the Time 100 gala in April; Grammy-winning musician Kacey Musgraves wore a floral-print look by the brand to perform last month at the Governors Ball; and Will Smith donned a geometric-print Dolce & Gabbana suit to the Los Angeles premiere of Aladdin in May. More recently, DJ Khaled wore a Dolce & Gabbana look at the 2019 BET Awards on June 23; Gwen Stefani wore the brand to perform in Mexico; and Demi Moore wore a teal Dolce & Gabbana dress to Royal Ascot in England on June 21.

Whether or not an official diversity council is in place, many woke eyes are watching for representation of cultural diversity in brand marketing and an awareness of cultural sensitivities as a basic corporate responsibility.