Hudson's Bay apologizes for not having anyone Indigenous on its BIPOC advisory board
In an attempt to be more inclusive, cut down barriers to entry in the fashion world and perhaps distance itself from its colonial past, Hudson's Bay Co. has just decided to launch a new fund to support Black, Indigenous and other designers of colour in Canada, and appointed a special advisory board for the cause.
Unfortunately, the brand made a painfully glaring error that they are being rightfully grilled for this week: failing to actually include anyone Indigenous on said board, the six members of which it announced last week.
"We made a mistake," reads an Instagram post the homegrown department store chain made over the weekend, acknowledging the screw up.
"Recently, The Bay announced an Advisory Board for the newly formed Fashion Fund in support of BIPOC designers in Canada. The announcement of the board did not include Indigenous representation. This erasure should not have happened. We are taking action."
The straightforward caption goes on to try and demonstrate that HBC — which, as we all know, started as a fur trading company that claimed land from Canada's First Nations and later sold it to the federal government for profit — is fully aware of the implications of its oversight.
It also states that the fashion fund will be put on pause until Indigenous voices are included in the program.
"We did not reflect our own standards of inclusivity, and we apologize," it finishes.
Though the public admission of messing up is definitely a good first step, it also opened up a conversation about the brand's history, with the top-liked comment asking execs to "Acknowledge the true history of your company. Acknowledge the pain that your subsidiary companies are still causing Indigenous communities today. We don’t deserve to just have a voice or two, we deserve to be leading those tables."
Other popular replies include "Of all the groups… THIS is the one you forgot to include? This group is literally right in the acronym. And what has made you the profits you’ve been enjoying for 350+ years," and "Because the Hudson Bay Company has zero prior history of the erasure of Indigenous people right?"
Along with the censure, there were those that pointed out that change takes time and that the transparency and recognition of the mistake is appreciated.
But generally, people are extremely displeased with the brand, considering it somewhat of a Freudian slip, and calling the fund in general virtue signalling.
Sage Paul, artistic director of Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto, wrote in her own Instagram post that she was asked to join the panel, but "had questions around their policies and governance" and turned the opportunity down.
"From my experience working with them, there is a lot of virtue signalling and it seems there is as little work done to just get by," Paul wrote on Friday.
"I was unsure if I could trust their work when they invited me. I also have a lot of ideas for how they could be more inclusive with integrity, but they are clearly not interested and only looking for free images or BIPOC people without actually changing their colonial systems."
Other members of the industry have been likewise calling out the brand in their own posts.
As the damage control continues, shoppers will have to wait to see what happens with the fashion fund and what other steps the Bay takes toward better inclusivity moving forward.
The fund was to award $25,000 and a three-year mentorship to one BIPOC designer each year starting in spring 2022.
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