Matches Fashion Strategic Lead Ife-Alabi On Diversity In The Fashion World 

Historically Black representation in the fashion world has been rare, but that has not stopped Iremide Ife-Alabi who has found a place to thrive at the premier luxury fashion retailer Matches Fashion. 

Starting as an intern, Ife-Alabi quickly found her sweet spot at the luxury brand. “I think the great thing is that the MATCHES internship programme is a paid opportunity. You're treated in the same way as a full-time member with a lot of the same benefits,” she recalled. That sort of equitable treatment was a positive sign for her as she began to navigate her career in an industry that had a reputation for being rather merciless. This focus on treating all employees—full-time or not—equitably, is something that it’s clear Matches takes seriously.

As the Strategic Partnerships Lead, Ife-Alabi is in a highly collaborative and highly visible role. Working with partners across the business on the company’s social franchise, their curated buy programme, and larger events such as the Frieze Art Fair, Ife-Alabi has found community and support in her colleagues. She reflects, “Fashion is very like, you have to think on your feet, you have to go above and beyond. And being able to laugh about it...you know, to cry about it with your colleagues as well is something that you can't see anywhere else”.

When Ife-Alabi was asked about her experience as a Nigerian woman in this industry, she noted that the conversation goes beyond just race. “I think it's important to really...look at all the issues, and one of the main ones is class.” Ife-Alabi continues, “I think across the board within fashion, there are loads of things that need to be worked on. And I believe that we're not there yet. But there is hope. I think that's one thing we can always have is knowing there is hope. And there will be hope because there are a lot of people in the industry who are striving for change.”

The equitable treatment Ife-Alabi experienced was not by accident. Matches Fashion is committed to embedding connections throughout their culture that reflects in their policies. In 2020, they established a number of programmes to help their Black colleagues feel not only heard but also represented. Their 2020 D&I report asks some important questions in regard to their track record with hiring and promoting Black talent: Why are Black people absent from the senior ranks? Why are most leadership and executive roles occupied by White people? Are there structural biases in the way we recruit people and develop their careers? If so, what are the causes, and what are the remedies? Tackling hard issues from these conversations has created an environment where all feel heard and seen. 

Partnering with Black in Fashion is certainly a significant part of their diversity and inclusion efforts. Gaining access to a network of Black professionals has proven valuable. It supports their sustainability ambitions, one of which is to “Champion our people and provide a dynamic, diverse and supportive workplace,” as noted on their website. 

Ife-Alabi notes that it’s more than just talk—it needs to be about action as well. She says, “I think it just goes back to being a really good leader.” 

Learn more about MatchesFashion on their BYP employer page here.

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