Diversity and inclusion were the two terms most used in fashion in the previous year. But how diverse was the model cast for the fall 2017 fashion week shows? Following the tradition, The Fashion Spot has released their fall 2017 runway model diversity report, according to which more women of color walked the runway than ever before!
Analyzing around 241 fashion shows and 7035 models cast for them, the fall 2017 runway model diversity report showed that 72,1% of the models that walked the runway for New York, London, Milan and Paris Fashion Weeks were white, while the remaining 27.9% were models of color. This overall shows 2,5 point increase of casting nonwhite models compared to the previous seasonal runway shows.
The calls for a more realistic view of the world being represented in one of the most creative and simultaneously necessary global outlets came with no surprise, though many more stubborn designers felt the need to be irrevocably self-righteous over the topic. The call for inclusion in the fashion world, especially considering represented on the runways and in lookbooks was based on the visibility of other races, ages, body types, and gender identity.
This request, unlike the opinion of the archaic, is more than reasonable, but apparently it is the current woe of the fashion industry with many influential brands dragging their feet as though they would rather sink into obscurity, betting that the rest of the world cannot do without their vision and thus must accept their true nature.
This unfortunately for them is incorrect and will not, as history has shown, provide them with the highest rate of success. On the other hand there are those who get the concept and those begrudging being forced into the concept and comply in the end.
Chromat gets the concept, having an inclusive dream runway with 77% models of color, 5 transgendered women and 5 plus size women. However it was done, it was clear that Chromat was not about tiptoeing anywhere; with bold fashions, incredible designs and a clearly stated support of every aspect of life currently under attach, Becca McCharen-Tran made clear that she supports and celebrates diversity.
She publicly stated the need to stand together with what is happening politically and socially and she made no apologies for it. She is amazing, Chromat is amazing and the runway show was breathtaking and amazing because of it.
Those who get the concept, like Marc Jacobs, have had a fall or two and learned from them as best they can. It is clear from the 2016 backlash over his ‘club kid’ dreads that even designers with an indisputable reputation for being very open-minded and inclusive can mess up royally.
Many people were waiting to see what he would do in response to the public flogging he received on social media over the ‘acknowledgement’ of dreadlocks in rave culture, but not the originations of loc culture and those who stand for it to this day. The lack of actual acknowledgment of those who want to wear them for reasons ranging from religion to protection but cannot due to the requirement to assimilate or the very real accompanying social punishments should they not was heartbreaking for many of his fans and customers.
His initial response glossed over that fact, citing his ‘colorblindness’ as his cloak of protection, which only worsened things – a categorically majority statement that still unequivocally erases others. No one wants to hear that one of their favorite visionaries is colorblind.
Why? Because that would mean we lack our own backgrounds, history and individuality and are instead ‘just there’. We have our own distinctions and stripping them from us only makes it easier to take without acknowledgement. Marc Jacobs’ aesthetic always seamlessly includes street elements making his clothes more relatable, interesting and incredible – there are elements of real people in his designs.
The actual statement by his hairstylist for that show, Guido Paulo who responded that Rastafarian culture specifically was not referenced, was such a slap in the face. Marc Jacobs responded with his recent shows being the second most inclusive period with 66% of the models being nonwhite, and he included 3 transgendered models as well and thankfully no appropriative notes. Given back the Marc Jacobs we all adore has significantly perked up many of his buyers and followers, hopefully enough to bring many of them back.
Tome had an incredibly diverse runway, hiring not just models of color and plus sized models, but also models outside of the normal teens to early twenties age range. They unequivocally stated the inspiration they gained from the Women’s March on Washington and the clean incorporation of these inspirations was noteworthy and clearly genuine.
Tome also met a few members of the Guerrilla Girls, an all female art coalition that fights for women’s rights worldwide and acknowledged the group and their efforts with GG embellished on several of their blazers with a cute banana.
Another pioneer of inclusive runways, Christian Siriano, has also made the list of most inclusive designers, coming in fourth. Siriano has been making waves since he won Project Runway and people love him. He steps in with beautiful designs and incredible nuance similar to how he volunteered via Twitter to dress Leslie Jones for the Ghostbusters red carpet event, when she was rebuffed by other designers.
His presentation featured models of color that rounded out to about 31%, but he had the highest number of plus sized models on the runway – 10. That is incredible considering how the standard linear shape for models has been the norm forever, and Siriano deliberately designed his collection to accommodate a more fun form.
Simone Rocha showed with 3 generations of women designed into their show and 30% of their models were models of color. This is fantastic and Simone has been clear that she wants to be and will be very inclusive. Though many might attribute this view to her background being Chinese and Irish, it is clear from other designers like Rei Kawakubo that background does not always translate that way.
Dolce & Gabanna (which showed in Milan) showed with 24% of their models being models of color, but additionally provided a range of dress sizes and models of different ages. J.Crew, which has done very well of late with incredible presentations of ‘real people’, rounded out the list with an incredibly diverse showing.
Surprising no one, Milan had the least inclusive runways, followed by Paris, cities that are indisputably considered to be original fashion capitals where many designers clearly have the arrogant attitude that they are better and thus do not need to change. Those stuck up designers have really dragged down the average for those cities, as many other designers there are significantly better and more inclusive.
New York showed with the most inclusive runways in all categories, continuing to set the new tone. Unfortunately post NYFW the number of transgendered models, plus sized models hired essentially boiled down to none, though the inclusion of women over 40 did not completely disappear; even Vivienne Westwood walked down the runway to thunderous cheers.
The range of included ethnicities really became more tonal to allow acceptance, favoring lighter and whiter and conceitedly consistent throughout most of the shows. Fashion activists and watchdogs are making huge strides for everyone in the fashion world, as they are no longer afraid to speak out against the pretentious designers who feel that their name and their vision is the only ones that matter.
Evolution is a biological necessity and choosing to mire oneself into a landscape that is being forced to be stagnant only ensures that the mired will be left behind. Fashion is no different, and has always been described as an ever-evolving art. It is time for designers to being noting that creativity in other areas will only help someone to hold on for so long before the marginalized, who collective make up a higher buying percentage than many like to admit, move on.
Fashion is a huge dictator of what is appealing and the results of what is appealing season to season should change with more than just the clothes. As with everything in the world, we learn and grow and change and those that refuse to are never considered to be positive footnotes in history.
The old mentality gratefully dies out and no longer casts an obstructive shadow on the future, and if there is anything we have learned in 2016, it is that the old mentality cares only for itself, its vision and not the destruction it will leave behind. We need these changes to apply to fashion as a whole, fashion is too important to remain one note as one of the most creative expressional outlets worldwide.
Photos courtesy of Vogue