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Nov 4, 2015
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Pratt hosts ‘Diversity in Design’ panel discussion

Nov 4, 2015

On October 19, The Pratt Institute hosted its Diversity in Design panel at Steelcase Showroom in New York City.
The panel touched on a myriad of topics in diversity like gender, race, sexual orientation and socio-economic levels and how each affects a designer’s perspective. The four panelists, Erica Eden, Director, Global Design Innovation, PepsiCo; Eddie Opara, Partner at Pentagram; Lou Switzer, CEO, the Switzer Group; and Bibhu Mohapatra, Fashion Designer each discussed their design perspectives, as well as their viewpoints on innovation, the workplace and their personal experiences.

Lou Switzer, Eddie Opara, Bibhu Mohapatra, Erica Eden and J.J. McCorvey of Fast Company - Pratt Institute

Each designer illustrated how the design world and the workplace can be improved. Mohapatra touched on an experience when he was turned down for a job, because the hiring process for international students was, as he put it, “a hassle for them.” Today, he employs 5 people from different countries in his small team. Eden spoke on her inability to fit in with her male peers due to a company's corporate culture and how she formed a network for female designers to meet online.
After the panel discussion, Mohapatra shared a word with FashionMag on diversity in the fashion industry. On the topic of diversity on the runway, he said, “For me, my casting day is like the UN. I want that diversity, because my clothes look that much better—they’re colorful and meant to empower women. When I meet a new model, I take time and listen to their stories and become excited!” A few models from his Spring 2016 show stood out in his mind for having such compelling back-stories. “I think that more can be done [on diversity],” he added.

Diversity on the runway has been a hot topic in the fashion industry for years. The need for inclusion of models of color and of different body types has led to the creation of modeling agencies that manage models of color, unique faces and plus size models. In September, the Fashion Spot released a diversity report for the most recent shows at four major fashion weeks. The website found that the shows are becoming more diverse but at a very slow pace. The Spring 2016 shows were 77.6% white, which is a decrease from 80% in Fall 2015. Plus-size models accounted for 10% of the total.

Bethann Hardison, a former model and founder of Balance Diversity, is very vocal about diversification in fashion. The Brooklyn native spoke at a panel discussion during New York Fashion Week, and was quoted by Vogue saying, "I’m concerned about the runways because that’s where the ideas are introduced, from the silhouettes, the colors, the textiles, and the girls and the guys—it all happens there first.”
In addition to the panel discussion, Pratt released the fifth issue of its publication Differentiate by Design (DxD). 

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