“We share the New York City Commission on Human Rights’ commitment to ensuring that diverse perspectives are represented and respected, and we are pleased that our diversity and inclusion initiatives are aligned with their vision for a more equitable, inclusive industry,” Mr. Mazzi said in a statement. “Prada is gratified to have been able to collaborate with the New York City Commission on Human Rights on a mutually agreeable conclusion.”
While it may look better for a brand to be policing itself, an outside arbiter may actually be a better solution, according to Alexandra Kalev, a professor of sociology at Tel Aviv University who studies racial, gender and ethnic diversity in the American workplace. Most companies, Dr. Kalev said, will “do anything they can to keep the law out of their hair.”
“Their message is usually: We’ll fix it, but we’ll do it on our terms.”
As a result, she said, the monitoring framework the Commission on Human Rights has put in place are a key development. In a world in which public attention tends to be focused for a minute, then replaced by the next terrible thing, it is easy for a brand to make a remedial gesture and then move on.
“When government becomes involved, and it’s not just Facebook outrage, it’s much more likely to have real consequences,” Dr. Berrey of the University of Toronto said. “Increasingly, this kind of social-oriented change is happening at the city level.”
Still, scholarships take years to come to fruition, and hiring practices do not change overnight. Perhaps the most immediate effect of the New York City commission’s new focus will be an understanding in the fashion industry at large that an agency with broad abilities to require change is watching.
“I don’t know that we realized previously so many major fashion houses had this ignorance of the history of racism in this country,” Ms. Raj said. “We hope companies realize they need to be very careful about how they market and advertise — that they need to have a larger social and cultural consciousness.”