When Meg approached me to expand on an IG post I shared recently, to put here onto the COTW platform, I was really happy to be able to amplify my personal perspective beyond just my own followers (as my profile is private).

Australian businesses and brands have thrived off our ignorance or unawareness of who they hire, who they promote and who are their decision makers for years, as they’ve never been accountable for this.

Now more than ever being a brand isn’t just about making great products—it’s about being socially, ethically, and environmentally responsible.

People demand more from who they give their money to, as we should. We all have to work hard for our dollars as well as having a duty to our fellow citizens and the environment, so why shouldn’t they?

While I am very proud of the career in Australian fashion that I have built from almost 2 decades of hard work and resilience, I very much recognise that it is also due to a large dose of privilege that I’ve been lucky enough to be afforded.

Privileges that I’ve realised recently and despairingly come to see that other BIPOC people have little hope of accessing in our current world.

I’m also all about the business of fashion, not the bullshit that sometimes accompanies it, so I’ve made a point to not work with assholes wherever possible.

Even if that meant resigning from seemingly “dream jobs” or avoiding the “hottest” people in favour of working with decent, grounded talent instead. I cast crew on their personalities as much as talent and models on their attitude as much as their looks.


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But in retrospect, I have come to wonder if my pride has been my defense mechanism for the micro-aggressions or covert racisms that I may have experienced.

I’m a proud and ambitious woman, so I find it very difficult to accept that I have not been treated fairly or based on my talent, as I have a very strong belief of equality and meritocracy.

Was the title change that I requested at an Australian fashion brand that was denied repeatedly—despite doing the work of that title and receiving glowing reviews for 2 years—then being granted to a white woman with literally a quarter of my experience following my resignation, inherently racist?

Was not being considered for roles that I wouldn’t even know about due to the hierarchical nepotism that pervades the industry with the “only hiring who you know” system of hiring that is only open to essentially white privileged Australians, inherently racist?

Considering that I’m often the only person of colour in a senior management room, even now, I have to wonder if so.


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I have worked since I was 15, supported myself entirely, including paying for my own university degree and lived out of home since I was 17. And I can tell you there is no way I could’ve also interned for a year plus, with no pay as well as pay for the expensive tuition of fashion institutions as students nowadays have to do to—all just to get a foot in the door, let alone a job.

So imagine students who aren’t from the middle-class family that I was from, not even getting the opportunity to showcase their passion, skills and talent simply because they are not privileged enough to fulfil these requirements, let alone support themselves.

The fashion industry needs to consider where they are sourcing their talent from but also who they are excluding in that process.

Because while Australian brands, by and large, are not overtly racist, the racism lies in what is omitted rather than what is visible. And what is omitted are people of colour, as we have never really been in the system in an inclusive capacity in the first place. We’ve been on the outer from day one.

So while I am a person of colour who has worked with some incredible Australian brands on a lot of incredible projects that I’m grateful for, why are there so few of me? Why aren’t there others and what are we all doing to change that?

I am in no way proclaiming to be perfect—I am guilty even as POC of buying into the exclusive and elitist rhetoric that the fashion industry encourages and even thrives on in some cases, as well as previously holding prejudiced attitudes in the workplace or simply sucking up the status quo because it was just easier to do so.

But I now see why that’s not right—I’ve been educated in what isn’t acceptable, I’ve grown in confidence to stand up for equality and I’ve also just become plain fed up.


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I have always stood up for my personal values and trusted my instincts on unethical fashion business practices that I can’t condone. And I have been championing diversity, inclusivity and authenticity from the clients I work with for some time now, or I simply choose to replace them with others who are.

The original IG post that inspired this article was born out of a growing sense of frustration and anger at the shallow gestures that some fashion brands have been and are still engaging in, which seem contrived and tokenistic.

As well as to urge my followers who may be BIPOC or allies to choose wisely the fashion they support with their hard-earned dollars.

This is the single most effective way to have your say, by voting with your shopping dollar.

People need to start realising that who you support, and in turn do not support, is a powerful tool to bring about change.

But with non-white Australians making up only 23% of the Australian population (according to the 2016 census), we need our white Australians allies to also put their money where their mouth is—or their social media posts.


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So I’ve collated a personal list of local Australian fashion brands that I will be actively supporting moving forward either because from outside, they have embraced inclusivity or diversity, or who internally I have worked with or continue to work with on creating more programs to support our BIPOC community.


The following brands founded by people of colour (who are also my friends!):

The following brands who visually support either race or body diversity and inclusivity:
@tcss (full disclosure—my husband’s brand!)

The following brands who I have been impressed with how they’ve responded and committed action to the BLM movement:

And finally, a list of brands that I am currently or have been recently working with on improving their diversity and inclusivity (and who by working with me as a POC are inherently supporting the change!):


While the above is in no way an exhaustive list, it is a very personal list of brands that I can vouch for and I invite the wider community to expand on this with their own personal experiences and points of view.

Now is the time for change, so really think about how you are going to contribute to being a more equitable and just society, both in and out of fashion.


Samantha De Kauwe is an Australian brand strategist, marketer and creative. She has worked with some of Australia’s largest brands and lives in Sydney with her husband Sam and boys, Ziggy and Rémy. Follow her on social media at @samdekauwe.

Meg & Dom

Tags: Diversity, Fashion, Opinion

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