"I never saw anyone who was like me in the industry and I was terrified to be exposed."
Pride Month may be over, but that doesn’t mean the stories of inspiring LGBTQIA+ figures making a difference should stop.
That’s why we’ve spoken to influencer and media-genic entrepreneur Ivanka DeKoning, to get her take on queer representation in the fashion industry – and why she’s now sharing her own personal success method to empower other minority entrepreneurs.
After a decade of working in the fashion departments for Fortune 500 companies including Saks and Barneys, Ivanka started her blog to close the gap between queer representation and mainstream lifestyle.
Now, she’s branching out and offering her services as a social media coach to help other minority entrepreneurs find their brand voice, too. Keep reading.
Ivanka Dekoning: “I never saw anyone who was like me in the industry and I was terrified to be exposed”
“I started my career working in the fashion industry for a Fortune 500 luxury retailer – while at the same time learning more about my own identity. After a weekend of immersing myself in New York City’s West Village lesbian scene, I would throw on my Christian Louboutins and go to my corporate office on Monday.”
“It took me years until I finally felt comfortable to come out at work.”
“I never saw anyone who was like me in the industry and I was terrified to be exposed. I recall having conversations with coworkers, who thought, with certainty, certain that lesbians didn’t shop at their store. Another time, I was told I was too pretty to be gay.”
“It was clear to me that there was a lack of inclusivity, diversity, and LGBTQ+ awareness in the fashion industry. It stemmed from the company structure, culture, and the vendor matrix. I saw so many voids in this creative industry that needed to be filled.”
“At the time, I felt my voice couldn’t make a difference in the office, so I took to social media.”
“I created a space for myself as a queer woman in the fashion and beauty world that I did not see represented elsewhere.”
“Through this experience, I gained a community, support system, and made alliances with other LGBTQ+ members to spread awareness of equality. Most importantly, I discovered clarity for my next career move.”
“As much as I didn’t agree with the lack of inclusivity and diversity in the fashion industry, I couldn’t leave. Fashion has always been my form of self-expression. I also knew there was still work to be done.”
“My social media platform eventually empowered me to come out at work. It was a transformative experience.”
“For the first time in my career, I was 100% open and myself.”
I used that space to break down LGBTQ+ stereotypes, educate on how not to assume others’ sexuality, and teach inclusive language in the office.”
“I eventually combined my love for social media when I scored a job managing my company’s social media channels. I was able to help curate an inclusive voice for a powerful brand in the industry.”
“After a couple of years, I realised that I wanted to take my experience further and leave corporate fashion to launch a social media coaching business. I wanted to create a career to help LGBTQ+ creators, small business owners, and entrepreneurs build their brands through the power that social media gave me.”
“When I first started my fashion industry career, I didn’t have a safe space to come out, so I learned how to create it. I’m proud that I can take my experience to help the next generation of LGBTQ+ business owners and entrepreneurs change the narrative and build a more inclusive environment in their communities.”
“I want other folks in the LGBTQ+ community to know that if there isn’t a space for you, then you can create it.”