Fashion Month has come to a close and we can finally look back to see just how diverse this season was. Last year, Bethann Hardison‘s Diversity Coalition called out a number of designers who failed to use more than one (if any) black models in their shows. Four letters were sent out to the governing bodies of fashion in New York, London, Milan and Paris. The goal was to alert designers to this kind of unconscious prejudice that allows them to cast shows void of any diversity.
We’ve come to expect the runways to be overwhelmingly whitewashed because, well, they usually are. And this season once again proved we still have a long way to go in terms of diversity. We analyzed 151 major shows in New York (48), Paris (42), London (31) and Milan (30) to see exactly how committed top designers are to representing a diverse group of models on the runway. The result was unsurprisingly “not very.” We counted black, white, Asian, Middle Eastern, Latina and female models of ambiguous ethnicity and found that the odds of women of color showing up on the runway are still extremely slim.
For the most part, the runways in each city were, on average, 83 percent white. New York seemed to have the most diverse week, with models of color showing up 20.9 percent of the time. Here’s a city-by-city breakdown:
It doesn’t come as a surprise that New York would lead the pack in diversity, although it’s only barely ahead of other cities. New York is quite a mixed pot itself, so perhaps the designers are only slightly more aware of diversity, considering they have no choice but to see it in the streets every day. London was the second most diverse city as 83.8 percent of the models who walked were white.
While the numbers are pretty dire, there were a few designers who used several models of color. Most notable is Ashish Gupta, who exclusively cast black models for his show, which included 12 girls in all. Four of the top five casts with the most minority models were shows that took place in New York City.
And now, for the designers who completely missed the boat on the diversity front. From our count, The Row had the least diverse show, casting one lone model of color out of 31 girls. Valentino was the most diverse of this grouping, with a paltry 2 models out of 41 models.
With so many beautiful, tall, thin women in the world, it is difficult to understand how designers like The Row and Valentino are unable to find more than just a pauper’s share of nonwhite models to recruit for shows. Lots of people blame casting directors and agencies for not having a wide selection of diverse models, but we’re starting to think that excuse is a bit of a cop-out. Look at Valentino’s numbers. He had a 43-model overture and could only find 2 girls who weren’t white to put in his clothes. It seems a little farfetched that it would be so impossible to find at least 10 girls of various ethnicities to walk for his show.
Runways have hovered around 80 percent white for the past few seasons, and while we didn’t count every single show, the designers included in this tally are some of the most influential in the industry. They’re the leaders of the pack, and since they are in such a high-profile position, we feel it is their responsibility to set the pace for the rest of the industry. There is no reason why a house like Givenchy, which usually stages quite diverse shows, should only feature 5 models of color out of 57 girls.
There have been countless pieces written on the issue of diversity in fashion, but the bottom line is, it seems very little is being done to remedy it. It seems the only choice is to put pressure on designers to perhaps use some of those creative proclivities to consider representing a wider range of beauty in their shows. Fashion is a global industry and it is time for it to reflect that.