• Alicia Delva

Main Points of Cultural Competency

Last week we had the privilege and honor of receiving Dr. Derrick Gay for a week long seminar, as part of our MBA Masters programs (Global Fashion Media, Fashion Business, Luxury Brand Management and Perfume & Cosmetics Management...). The week was covered by theme of Cultural Competency, every day addressed different topics.

Personally, I must confess that, I had no clear idea of ​​what could be cultural competency, and I was able to open my eyes to topics that are essential and important in everyday life. These four days were dense for the students, but rich in information.

Dr. Derrick Gay is a brilliant consultant in world-renowned education with more than twenty years of experience, of American origin, he speaks more than six languages. His work focuses on culture and its different perceptions in the world. He has made presentations in the most prestigious universities, TV shows (example TED), as well as in the private sector.

The Cultural Competency theme treats the subject of the outside view of how individuals observe, judge, discriminate against other individuals because of their origins, the color of their skins, their ways of behaving and expressing themselves, and more. This form of social and cultural rejection is a scourge that is very present in our society, but which goes unnoticed most of the time.

Day 1

We started off by seeing an advertisements for different products, including one of ‘Fair & Lovely’ skin bleaching that comes from India. In this advertisement you can see a face on one side with tanned skin, and on the other side with lighter skin. All of this comes to the symbol of cultural identity for the benefit of products that feed on the psychological suffering of millions of individuals who do not accept their identities.

We also discussed identity and culture. Identity is who we are and where we come from and culture is the education of identity, culture is what makes us who we are, our language, our traditions, our history.

Day 2

We discussed metaphors such as the iceberg, the fish in the water, the gorilla, the left hand and right hand as seen in the photo. All this symbolizes a lot of things in our daily lives.

For example, the metaphor of the iceberg means that we only see a little bit of someone and that it seems important to us, but that is a mistake because the most interesting and the most important things in a culture is not necessarily visible, and requires a lot of attention.

The fish in the water symbolizes culture. If you ask the fish why is in the water they do not know. If you tried to explain it they'd say, "Water? What's water” It’s impossible for the fish/person in the “water” to see it, and they can not see it until they get outside of it. We’re so surrounded by our own truths and what we think is the norm, and it is really just our local culture. We can not see it until we get outside of it.

The gorilla means that he's there but not everyone sees it, like blind spots. Also that everyone has a different experience, even if we all see the same thing.

The right hand and left hand means that the world is created for right handed people but these people don’t understand that the world is created for them , they are unaware because it’s become normal. However, the left handed people are the minority and they are explaining that it’s unfair, because they have to experience this separation everyday.

In addition, we approached the subject of stereotypes, which is someone's prejudgment that they put on the other group of people or things. It’s a generalized belief about a particular category of people or things. We learned that there are negatives effects of positive stereotypes. For example Asians are often stereotyped by « they’re good in maths » which is positive way of thinking but there a negative consequences because not all Asians are good in math so when we think that is a positive stereotype is not because we can hurt someone and put pressures on them.

Day 3

We talked about Microaggressions, which is usually words or actions in order to judge somebody because of their differences ; even if it doesn't really hurt, it's annoying as the metaphor of mosquitoes from the video that was shown in class. In the video microaggressions is compared to mosquito bites to show that when they happen often enough they can hurt a lot more that you think. Some people are bitten more than others but it’s not that big of a deal but when someone is bitten for the first time is annoying and it hurts. This is a reminder of nobody should bite others.

We also learned about cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation. Cultural appropriation is the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing that you understand or respect this culture. The example given in class was a fashion brand using the codes from a culture (colors, clothing style, designs) but during the campaign or the fashion show they are not using people from this culture.. culture appreciation is the opposite of cultural appropriation. It’s the act of taking or using things from a culture but respecting and understanding the culture. If a brand is taking things from a culture, they will showcase it in the entire production, by using model from that culture, and using it honestly by marketing about it.

Day 4

The last day of the seminar with Dr. Derrick Gay taught us about safe spaces and brave spaces. A safe space is ideally one that doesn’t incite judgment based on identity or experiences. While learning may occur in these spaces, the goal is to provide support.A brave space encourages dialogue. Recognizing difference and holding each person accountable to do the work of sharing experiences and coming to new understandings - it is often uncomfortable..


The experience shared with Dr. Derrick Gay was extremely enriching, both culturally and intellectually. Being a student in an international fashion school, I can see several cultures gathered here to study around the same passion. But even more, coming from a country that is a mix of several cultures, I am grateful today, thanks to the teaching of Dr. Gay, that many things encountered in my life now find a meaning, an explanation.

If you want to learn more about cultural competency or Dr. Derrick Gay here is the website link:


Sources: Google images

#fashion #culturalcompetency #DrDerrickGay #microaggressions #stereotypes #fashionschool #ifaparis

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