Five minutes with Queenie Lo
Queenie Lo, CEO of hospitality and retail design agency, UXUS, speaks to Transform magazine about diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the retail and hospitality brand design space.
How important is diversity and inclusion when designing for retail and hospitality brands?
We need to reach a point where DE&I is embedded within the design system and not seen as separate or a ‘nice to have’ add-on. If you’re designing, be that for retail and hospitality, or for any other sector, diversity and inclusion is vital and has to be part of your design process.
Of course, there is also a commercial aspect to this. Brands who put their ethical beliefs into practice see a positive business impact but DE&I should already be a part of the design process across every level.
I have young children and when I look at them and how they interact with the world I realise that for them, DE&I is already embedded in their world and the way they look at it. We need to reach this point but for now, we have to make every conscious effort to ensure that DE&I is being considered at every design stage.
What are the key considerations to make when retail and hospitality companies want to incorporate inclusive design principles into their brands?
At UXUS, we consider strategic design and therefore DE&I at every level so it’s part of our whole process. Designers have to think about the audience that they’re targeting and consider the unique needs of each type of consumer for every single project. Designers should also constantly reevaluate these unique needs as our understanding of diversity is constantly evolving. There are always conversations to be had with clients about DE&I but especially so for established older brands who haven’t considered DE&I in the past. Brands should always be striving to do better and must understand that we design should continuously be evolving to accommodate the needs of the consumer at every level.
How can brands achieve a genuine DE&I approach without being accused of jumping on the bandwagon?
Brands have to take an entirely genuine approach to DE&I to make it successful. And every person within the design process has to be fully engaged and committed to it for that to work.
Diversifying workforces is a key component because it’s only through diversity in the workforce that we’re able to offer products or services that fully benefit our consumers. It’s not enough for brands to respect different backgrounds, beliefs and ways of life. They have to fully embrace diversity within their workforce and creative teams to reflect society at large. Genuine DE&I is about empowerment: for the consumer, and those within the brand.
What are the most notable examples of brands that are truly inclusive?
The last few years have seen an explosion of brands at the forefront of this conversation who are acting in a truly inclusive way. I admire Rhianna for the brands she has developed. Fenty Beauty has set a standard that the rest of the beauty industry has started adhering to, although we’re still very much at the beginning of this journey. Savage x Fenty lingerie is another example of a brand leading the way in inclusivity and diversity - from their catwalk shows to the products themselves. Consumer’s buy into Fenty because of its fluidity and the way consumers can see the brand’s value in each product. Similarly Hashtag Beauty, a Chinese brand is inclusive and diverse at every consumer touchpoint - from packaging to product.
A smaller brand, but no less impressive, is Universal Standard who are breaking new ground in terms of size inclusivity. The brand allows customers to return their products within 1 year of purchase, accepting that bodies change and we should celebrate that rather than keeping clothes that no longer fit us.
I also think Disney are proving their versatility. Their recent output of content has broken a continual pattern of fairytale princesses adhering to outdated gender norms. It’s heartwarming that kids growing up watching new Disney content will now have a totally different relationship with the characters from their childhood, compared with that of previous generations. Kids today are being brought up with more diverse representations around them, which is a much truer reflection of today’s world.