In 1982, the advertising industry was turned upside down. That was the year designer Elio Fiorucci organized a lunch at the Tower of Pisa restaurant with his friends Luciano Benetton, the founder of the Italian fashion brand now known as Benetton Group S.p.A., and Milanese photographer Oliviero Toscani. The meeting was perfectly timed. Benetton had just made the decision to advertise and Fiorucci was convinced Toscani was the man for the job. Turns out, he was right.
For the next 18 years, Toscani produced arresting, controversial and multi-cultural campaigns for Benetton that catapulted the little-known clothing brand into a household name and set the tone for a new age of fashion advertising. With his signature mix of social commentary and commerce, Toscani addressed a wide range of issues from AIDS and racism to war and death row with models of varying ages, races and body types.
Today’s campaigns tell a different story. After examining women’s fashion print ads for Spring 2015, we found one common thread: an alarming lack of diversity. Here’s the breakdown.
Out of the 577 fashion campaigns we examined, 811 models* were cast. The result? 84.7 percent were white. **In comparison, Asian models came in at a distant second at 5.7 percent, followed by black models at 5.1 percent and Latina models at 2.3 percent.
Some of the brands that lacked diversity were repeat offenders. For instance, Saint Laurent’s campaigns (including ready-to-wear and Psych Rock) featured seven models total this season—all were white. Looking back, the last time a model of color was represented in a Saint Laurent fashion campaign was for Fall 2008 when Naomi Campbell was shot by Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin during designer Stefano Pilati’s tenure.
The same goes for Chloé . For spring, the brand cast white models Caroline Trentini and Eniko Mihalik. What’s shocking is that Chloé has not cast a model of color in its ready-to-wear campaigns since Spring 2001 when former creative director Stella McCartney selected Jessica White as the face of the brand.
On a positive note, a number of brands stepped it up in the diversity department. Naomi Campbell and Jourdan Dunn hugged it out for Burberry Prorsum and Joan Smalls modeled solo for Prabal Gurung. On the celebrity front, Rihanna secured Puma, Nicki Minaj nabbed Roberto Cavalli, Solange fronted Eleven Paris and Kim Kardashian and Kanye West posed for Balmain.
Additionally, the award for one of the more diverse retailers goes to Barneys New York, which raised the bar with its “Better Than Ever” Spring ad, photographed by Bruce Weber. This body-positive ad features a medley of supermodels, aged 39 and up, including Bethann Hardison, Brooke Shields, Christie Brinkley, Elaine Irwin, Kiara Kabukuru, Kirsten Owen, Pat Cleveland, Stephanie Seymour, Susanne Bartsch and Veronica Webb. Here, models of color made up 40 percent.
After all the fashion campaigns had been tallied, Binx Walton took home top honors for being the most booked model. She scored nine ads, which included the likes of Alexander Wang, Coach, Fendi and Tom Ford.
Out of the entire cast for Spring 2015, plus-size models only accounted for 1 percent of models in high-profile fashion ads. These castings were represented by three mass-market plus-size brands. Ashley Graham, the size 16 model who is best known as the first plus-size model to be featured in a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue ad, posed for Swimsuits For All. Meanwhile, Candice Huffine, who recently launched a #LovedByCandice capsule collection with Italian brand Elena Miro, took the top spot at Mango’s plus-size line Violeta. Both women also appeared in Lane Bryant’s #ImNoAngel Spring ad, alongside Marquita Pring, Victoria Lee, Justine Legault and Elly Mayday. No plus-size models were represented in ads for luxury brands.
For this particular study, we didn’t analyze age for every Spring 2015 campaign. However, it’s important to note that a handful of brands cast models over the age of 40. In addition to the Barneys “Better Than Ever” campaign, Céline photographed 80-year-old literary icon Joan Didion and Saint Laurent signed 71-year-old folk music legend Joni Mitchell. Both Alexis Bittar and Kate Spade shot 93-year-old designer and fashion icon Iris Apfel.
MASS MARKET VS. LUXURY
Overall, mass market brands were more likely to cast a model of color — a pattern that rang true for 2014 campaigns as well. For fashion, Topshop chose Joline Braun for its in-store ad, while shoe brand Sam Edelman selected Charlene Almarvez and Rossy Herrera (along with Josephine Skriver). H&M, a brand that regularly champions diversity, picked four models of color to appear in three different campaigns. This grouping includes Aya Jones‘ solo act for H&M Loves Coachella, Arlenis Sosa and Rose Bertram for H&M Sport and Joan Smalls for H&M Summer (along with Adriana Lima, Doutzen Kroes and Natasha Poly). And finally, DKNY continued its diversity streak. The brand cast Binx Walton (DKNY and DKNY Jeans), Soo Joo Park (DKNY Jeans), Dylan Xue (DKNY Online) and Xiao Wen Ju (DKNY).
More often than not, this was also the case for luxury brands. Campaigns for Lanvin, Max Mara, Versace, Valentino, Prada, Carolina Herrera and Christian Dior, along with Saint Laurent and Chloé as previously stated, were entirely whitewashed. On the flip side, a number of high-priced brands, like Chanel (L’Instant), Kenzo and Agent Provocateur, made a concerted effort to exclusively cast models of color in major campaigns ranging from watches to ready-to-wear.
Findings from this Spring 2015 ad report are almost identical to our 2014 campaign analysis, published in December, which showed that 85.97 percent of womenswear ads were white. The good news? We have no where to go but up.
The tFS team did our best to include the major fashion print campaigns. If we missed something, let us know!
With additional reporting by Elena Drogaytseva.
*The term model in this case also includes celebrities featured in campaigns.
**Models of color were categorized as those who appear to be nonwhite or of mixed backgrounds. Models included in the Latin category are classified as nonwhite Latins that do not appear to be strongly Afro-Latin.