Statistics released this morning by American website Jezebel revealed that New York Fashion Week featured 78.68 per cent white models, down slightly on last season’s 79.98 per cent. Despite calls for more diversity, the figure has remained at around the 80 per cent white mark for the past six seasons.
Prior to fashion week last September, the Diversity Coalition, spearheaded by activist and former model Bethann Hardison, sent letters to the governing bodies of all four fashion capitals listing “fashion houses guilty of this racist act”. Hardison was supported in her campaign by both Iman and Naomi Campbell. The letter stated;
“Eyes are on an industry that season after season watches design houses consistently use one or no models of color. No matter the intention, the result is racism. Not accepting another based on the color of their skin is clearly beyond ‘aesthetic’ when it is consistent with the designer’s brand. Whether it’s the decision of the designer, stylist or casting director, that decision to use basically all white models, reveals a trait that is unbecoming to modern society. It can no longer be accepted, nor confused by the use of the Asian model.”
The Coalition claim, and rightly so, that designers don’t use enough black models on the catwalks. The British Fashion Council responded to the allegations of racism with the following statement;
“The British Fashion Council does not organise model castings for London Fashion Week although, as its governing body, strongly asserts that all participating designers should recognise that London is one of the most multi-cultural cities in the world and should consider reflecting this demographic at their shows and presentations. The BFC is committed to model welfare and is more than happy to engage in tackling any issues regarding best practice and diversity at London Fashion Week.”
The fashion industry is not known for its diversity. For every Jourdan Dunn there’s a thousand skinny blondes like Cara Delevingne. We can’t remember the last time there was a black model on the cover of Vogue and a rather disturbing trend among top fashion magazines has emerged whereby instead of using black models, white girls have their faces painted black and wear black wigs. It’s hard to believe that I’m writing that sentence in 2013. What the industry perceives and consequently portrays to society as beautiful, is a skinny white girl. Black models on the catwalk in New York fell from 8.1 percent in 2012 to just 6 percent in February 2013, which is really shocking in an age when the President of the USA is a black man. Tocca featured only white models and Calvin Klein featured just two models of color this season, down from five last season.
We had hoped that Hardison’s campaign soon resonates with designers and that London, one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world, stepped up to the plate. Sadly, we were disappointed. We can only hope that Milan and Paris have heard the message but looking at the catwalks of London and New York over the past few weeks, it seems unlikely.