UON academic appointed as Graduate Fashion Foundation trustee to encourage equality in the industry

Date 4.01.2021

A fashion charity has brought a University of Northampton academic on board to enhance the academic and industry opportunities for people of colour.

Senior Lecturer in Fashion, Gavin Douglas, is the first-ever UON academic to be appointed as a trustee for the prestigious Graduate Fashion Foundation (GFF), a charity which bridges the gap between education and employment.

Best known for its annual Graduate Fashion Week event in London, the foundation’s mission is to bring together fashion educators and industry leaders to support their graduates to reach their full potential once they have graduated.

Gavin has been an ongoing advocate of increasing the awareness of the race inequalities that prevent career opportunities for fashion students and graduates of colour. Last year, he set up a mentoring programme at the University to give fashion students the best chance of overcoming barriers they may face in the world of work.

Gavin hopes the scheme will help to address the UK-wide issue of the ethnicity award gap between students of colour and their white peers. A 2019 report from Universities UK and the National Union of Students found just 57 per cent of black students who graduated in 2017 achieved a first or a 2:1 compared to 81 per cent of white students.

Gavin said: “I’m delighted to have been appointed as a trustee of the Graduate Fashion Foundation, and hope I can help the charity to achieve real results for fashion students and graduates of colour.”

Not just lip service

He added: “There needs more recognition of the cultural capital people of colour bring to the industry. There also needs to be greater awareness of the ethnicity award gap and the measurable actions required to make progressive change, not just lip service.”

Part of his remit as a GFF trustee will be to advise universities on how they can support students of colour entering the fashion industry and make academics aware of the ethnicity award gap. Gavin’s also keen to work with industry leaders, to establish the best ways to break down the barriers students and graduates of colour might face.

As part of his equality and inclusion advocacy in Higher Education (HE), Gavin has become a member of Fashion Academics Creating Equality (FACE). This new group challenges Higher Education, Further Education and the fashion industry to be more inclusive, unified and equal.

He is also a co-founder of the University’s Global Ethnic Majority (GEM) Staff Network.

Gavin is also an active researcher and is hoping to conduct in-depth qualitative and quantitative research that aims to analyse barriers that prevent art and design graduates from becoming leading fashion designers within the UK. This will include analysing the relationship between attainment, retention, progression and continuation of art and design students of colour and their experiences within HE and the UK fashion industry upon graduation.