Friends that don’t sew always ask me how they can start sewing and I always recommend something that does not have a zipper, so either a circle skirt or a wrap skirt. I always refer them to the big four patterns, mostly McCall’s and Simplicity for their overall ease of use and the fact that growing up my mother and grandmother used them.
Recently I picked up a sewing pattern that embodied the description above. It was an elastic waist band circle skirt that would be one of my most recommended beginner skirts to date. However, there is one problem, the pattern cover styling left a very bitter taste in my mouth as someone who speaks high of Simplicity, McCalls, Vogue and Butterick (yes it’s one company). It highlighted the underrepresention of black people in corporations and fashion. I could bring up all companies but right now let’s concentrate on this specific company. I’m not usually the most vocal about these issues (even though I feel them) for many different reasons including the fact that I feel as if this is not an issue alot of companies take seriously, but this time I had to say something. I got a Direct Message on Instagram from a few people in the sewing community about how I felt about a specific new release of Simplicity Patterns and my first thought was “why does she look like she was cast in 12 years a slave?” If you think I’m exaggerating, I’ll have you take a look and tell me what you see…
Now I don’t know what you see but please let me know what you thought and also about the rest of the post. After looking at this I had many questions which of course are still unanswered or unknowns at this point. I hate making assumptions so I try to look at things from both sides of the fence, but with this pattern it has proven difficult to do so.
Questions I asked myself and alot of people felt this way too: who styled this? why did they think this looked ok? ok maybe you were going with neutrals but when you put it together did it remind you of anything you’d seen before or have you never been exposed to such images? maybe the images don’t pertain to you therefore you thought it was ok… if you’re styling are you sensitive to you audience or target market? have you done research on them? what year is this? do you understand racial undertones and overtones, which of the two apply to this incident? is there diversity and inclusion in the company, if so why didn’t anyone speak up, were they afraid? if there is there is diversity and inclusion in your company why is there multiracial incompetency? i get it, maybe there is diversity with no inclusion, tokenism they call it. I’m not done with the questions, those are just a handful but let’s bring it back to why I decided to end up making this skirt anyway.
After multiple people of all ethnicities (Black, People of Color and Caucasians) spoke up about it, the two accounts representative of the big 4 released a statement. Whew, now we can rest easy, they listen and heard us. They apologized in the statement below…
… and they also took the offensive pattern down. We can rest easy! OR DID THEY? After that I said I would step away from buying patterns in general and instead self draft and also use the patterns I have accumulated until now, but as a huge pattern fanatic and supporter of Mimi G, I had to go out and get her new release. Luckily, Joann Stores had a 1.99 pattern release the following weekend. Perfect! I will go pick one up. Before I made my way up there I got a text from Marica (@overdriveafter30 on instagram) to ask if I had been to get the pattern and if my store has the “racially distasteful” pattern in it? I made my may out there Saturday evening as I had planned to and found it, front and center. But wait there’s more… I went to three more Joann’s and they all had out on display. But I thought they said they had taken it down, recalled the pattern? Oh wait, they took it down from the website but never said they recalled it from stores. The only way to prove I had seen it would be to make a 1.99 purchase. It wouldn’t hurt.
I decided to wait until I could get my words together to write a post about it and maybe wait to see if they took it down before I write but to this day, it is still at your local Joann’s store, probably front and center in the featured patterns above the pattern drawers. Most people are boycotting Joann’s right now so they may not have seen it but as one of my previous managers used to say “trust but verify” and so I trusted that it had been removed from all platforms but it hasn’t. Maybe it was oversight but we’ll just leave that one open to interpretation. Also, before someone asks me what I expect the pattern company to do with all the patterns pieces they produced for this specific one, maybe start by recalling them all. Next, you could address it because it never really was, it was removed from the site so people could stop talking about it and we trusted you had our best interests at heart and by we/our I mean your black consumers and their racially sensitive friends. You could also repackage it, restyle it. Make some positive changes going forward like being sensitive to your consumers and having alot more dialogue and representation of the people that make sure they support your companies. Include us in the conversations about the patterns and what we would like to see and also how we would like to be represented. Don’t just diversify, include us in the companies, I could name plenty of corporate qualified people with the knowledge and education to go with it. As with any good relationship listen, make a sincere apology for where you went wrong and also make a conscious effort to be more aware and sensitive to ALL your consumers. Create a clear and concise way forward and be consistent with it. Show us that you value all of us that support you.
Now since Marica and I both bought the pattern, we figured we would show not just tell you of some of the many ways we would like to be represented, which is in a positive light, I would show you. I hope this is read and understood. Please understand, this is my point of view, not to start trouble but an open letter to one of the companies I have loved and known since I was about 6 when my mother was using them and how I (one of many) feel unappreciated by you and hope you can reevaluate some processes within your organization.
Adding a link to Marica’s site you can read her view too:
Let us know what you think in the comments