NTU alum is a Vogue Business 100 Innovator
Social activist and fashion brand inclusion consultant, Arooj Aftab, is recognised as a next-gen entrepreneur and agitator at the forefront of overhauling the fashion industry.
Vogue Business has identified Fashion Communication and Promotion BA (Hons) graduate as a leading light shaking up the fashion industry by listing her as a 100 Innovator for her work with #DoneWithDiversity.
Arooj is honoured to have been recognised in this way and modestly says, ‘’I only started #DoneWithDiversity in September 2020, it’s been challenging but my Vogue Business listing shows how small ripples can make big waves.’’
As a British Pakistani Kashmiri Muslim, Arooj feels compelled to challenge tokenism within the fashion industry, hence #DoneWithDiversity was born. ‘‘I’m fighting for ‘diversity’ to be ditched, it’s just a buzzword which allows brands to tick a few boxes, and we can become more inclusive without it,’’ she says.
Arooj explains that she is often the only brown face in entirely white teams who don’t understand the culture or community. ‘‘Brands need to look beyond surface appearances and understand that it’s about culture over colour – they need to stop generalising and understand that diversity campaigns don’t work if there’s no representation behind the scenes.’’
#DoneWithDiversity also directs a spotlight on language, how it makes non-disabled, heterosexual white cis men and women look like the norm, with anyone who doesn’t fit the status quo being pigeon-holed within the ‘diversity box’.
Arooj, who lives with neurofibromatosis (NF) type 1, has personal experience of this. ‘‘Five years ago, I was the subject of a BBC documentary, My Tumour Made Me Trendy,’’ she explains. ‘‘When I subsequently turned down modelling jobs for tight clothing, including swimwear, I was criticised for not being body-positive; there was no understanding that I choose to wear loose and androgynous clothing to cover my tumours, or that my style is also influenced by my identity. This experience and living with NF has also motivated me to speak up for change.’’
Arooj has also won the Asian Media Award in 2019 and she hosted Tommy Hilfiger’s Fashion Frontier Challenge in 2022.
Everyone at NTU would like to congratulate Arooj for being a Vogue Business 100 Innovator – we are all incredibly proud of you. #ProudtobeNTU