Is there enough diversity in the fashion industry? Diversity in this sense specifically meaning race and body image.
This question has been raised many times in the past and season after season usually during major fashion weeks when the bread and butter of the industry strut their stuff. Why is it that some designers only use one specific type of model to show their clothing? How many ethnically diverse models do we see on the runways of Milan, Paris and New York? Designers create their clothes for their ideal consumer but the lack of diversity leads to the question: do designer’s only see a specific race and size donning their threads? Or are the models they choose based solely on market research and those with buying power?
The Race Issue:
Back in 2007, models Naomi Campbell, Liya Kebede and Tyson Beckford launched a series of rallies in New York City against the discrimination of race in the fashion industry. This group lobbied the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) for its support in their fight against race discrimination. Of course, this initiative extends to more than just african-american models and touches models of different race and ethnicity. Their efforts did not go unnoticed: July of the next year Italian Vogue, one of the world’s most prominent fashion sources (and my personal style bible), published the “Black Issue” featuring only black models. The following year, i-D Magazine set out to do the same by featuring up and coming young black models on their cover.
In a recent blog post, Franca Sozzani, the EIC of Vogue Italia, wrote that she no longer feels that race is an issue in fashion. And maybe she’s right, lately I’ve noticed more young black models gracing the covers of major fashion magazines, in major ad campaigns and prancing down the runway for the most sought after shows. These models have even become household names: Chanel Iman, Jourdan Dunn (model of the year in 2008 at the British Fashion Awards), Arlenis Sosa, Sessilee Lopez and Ottawa’s own Herieth Paul, just to name a few.
The Size Issue:
The Fall 2010 Louis Vuitton show brought back the utterly feminine power of the bosom. After hit television series Mad Men, the industry is finally starting to fully understand what women want: not just beautiful clothes, but to see “real” women displaying them on the runway. Although not always the case –the industry considers a size 10 to be plus-size –but a more “normal” aesthetic is coming to light; models like Lara Stone, Barbara Brickner and Canadian Liis Windischmann have been driving forces behind the size revolution. Gone are the days of heroine chic Kate clones on the runway. More and more consumers are seeing familiar body types walking the runway and appearing in ad campaigns for international designers.
Another prime example is former plus-sized model Crystal Renn who has walked the runway for Chanel and Jean Paul Gaultier and has recently come under fire for losing a considerable amount of weight. Renn states that the “plus-sized model” title given to her by the industry had put an increasing amount of pressure on her shoulders so much so that she titled her 2009 autobiography, Hungry.
These healthier body images seen on the runway is a direct result of several health initiatives and model casting requirements throughout the industry. Last year the CFDA hosted Beauty of Health where Canadian model Coco Rocha spoke about her issues with body image upon starting out in the business. Panels like these hope to bring awareness to designers, modelling agencies and models and demonstrate the importance of a healthy body image and the positive psychological effects that go along with its promotion.
Designers to lead the foray into such an initiative include Canadian luxury brand Vawk who had a plus sized and older model walk the runway at last season’s LG Fashion week.
To answer my initial question (Is there enough diversity in the fashion industry?), I’m going to have to sit on the fence and say maybe… The industry may not be 100% as diverse and many people would like to see it, but like many industries, nothing is perfect. True to the nature of fashion, however, trends come and go…maybe one day, the widespread prejudice will fade to the background like…say harem pants (I wish!)?
What do you think? Leave us a comment below.
photo credits: hyperlinked