Its a subject much returned to, the fashion industry loves to make bold claims about how it supports creativity and uniqueness, however time and again the question of diversity is ignored or skirted around. For those of us that are of a certain vintage we may recall that for a while things looked to be changing, mainly because Anna Wintour used a Vogue feature to call out the industry with a “Is fashion racist” article way back in 2008, and yes fore a while things seemed to be heading in the right direction.
But, and its a big but that change wasn’t maintained, the industry is less diverse each year. By the time the global circus of fashion weeks had rolled into New York in the spring of 2013 83% of models used at the official events were white, well thats New York, London, Paris and Milan are the same, in fact there have been shows in the last year that only featured white models, including some of the biggest names in the business. Prada went nearly 20 years with out having a black model star in a campaign according to Glamour Magazine.
This led to Naomi Campbell, Jourdan Dunn and Iman speaking out.
Iman – “there were more black models in the 70’s than there are in 2013.”
Naomi Campbell – ‘I don’t like it, and I say it. I say, ‘Where’s the others?’ I’m very outspoken, as we know.’
Jourdan Dunn – Ahahahahahaha I just for cancelled from Dior because of my boobs! I❤ fashion #Couture”
“I’m normally told I’m cancelled because I’m ‘coloured’ so being cancelled because off my boobs is a minor : )”
Its interesting to note that since they started the campaign change has come about, but to quote Naomi again . .
“I’ve seen a huge change this season already, Giorgio Armani used four models of colour in his show, and a model of colour opened his show, which is something that I haven’t seen in a very long time. Jil Sander did; I’m naming names because this is a big improvement. We don’t want this to be a trend; that designers begin using models of colour just because we are raising our voices,” she said. “We hope they will keep doing it and we’re going to keep raising our voices until they do. It’s a long-term plan.”
Even where diversity appears to be increasing there are claims its purely for profit, for instance the NY Times claim that growing economies influence the choice of models, and shows are increasingly using Asian models due to the growth of the Chinese luxury goods market.
So where does this leave us, in situation where the industry pays lip service to a campaign just long enough to reduce the heat again? Are the only way some regions are allowed to be in the fashion industry through working in factories.
Fashion has a problem and the leading names need to face up to this and admit it. Fashion is happy to sell on a global basis, it should be happy to include everybody at every level, you can’t claim that the big fashion weeks reflect in a certain way because thats the way the countries are made up, in that case there would only be Italians showing in Milan, only the French at Paris but we see the big brands allowed to pick and choose their global placements, they shouldn’t then hide behind falsehoods.
This industry has enough issues with perception as it is without being selective in its diversity, its time for a true change in the culture, its telling that one of the most famous and long lasting model agents Carol White said,
“I think clients have this perception that black girls do not sell products, which goes way back to the 50’s. I think it’s engrained in every magazine editor. There are more products for blonde and blue-eyed girls. Everything is geared to that.”
Lets call out anyone we think is fueling this, and lets support those that are fair, or willing to change, it has to be for everyone or nobody at all. For once I’ll be watching the fashion weeks this season and looking at this reflection.