Take a look back at almost any runway show in recent years and you’ll find one thing in common-a parade of garments moving swiftly back and forth, most of which are presented by a band of white models.
The lack of diversity in the modeling world is no new development, and the issue, while still a work in progress, is slowly working toward change, starting with recent shows at New York Fashion Week Fall 2016, which revealed the industry’s most diverse casting yet.
Prior to his Fall 2016 show, designer Zac Posen shared a photo on Instagram of himself posing with bag labeled “Black Models Matter,” designed by artist/model Ashley Chew the previous season. Posen put his money where his mouth is by casting his show with almost all models of color, 87% of which were nonwhite.
Other designers showing at Fashion Week, including Kanye West (Yeezy Season 3,) Chromat, and Sophie Theallet also booked the majority of their shows to be represented by models of color.
Of the 120 shows presented, almost 32% of models booked were persons of color, a slight increase from Spring 2016, which featured only 28%.
Despite increasing change from previous seasons, over 68% of all models cast to walk in NYFW Fall 2016 were white, according to a diversity report released by The Fashion Spot.
Because black men and women have been inputting their ideas into the industry for decades now, and with black culture heavily influencing many of the facets which make up modern American life, the underrepresentation of people of color on the runway and in campaign ads is problematic, at best. As more and more young people of color are not only influencing culture but aiming their spending power toward the fashion industry, it would only make sense that their efforts reflect themselves.
Finding experienced models to walk in shows is easier said than done, however, due to the frustrating fact that many models of color simply aren’t given the opportunity to hone their skills. This makes it hard for designers looking to add a diverse cast to represent their brand.
As recently stated in a New York Times article on the subject, Xuly.Bët designer Lamine Kouyaté struggled to cast an all-black show as he had intended, eventually signing only 15 women. While international forums are more supportive of multiracial representation, the U.S. still has a long way to go, even in a progressive and artistic setting such as New York.
Diversity is making it’s way into mainstream beauty campaigns, a definite step in the right direction. Tanzanian model Herieth Paul will serve as the latest global spokesmodel for Maybelline, a promising addition to the recent news of Zendaya’s recent contract with Cover Girl, and a Teen Vogue cover featuring actress Zoe Kravitz.
By making black women more visible in the public eye, these ripples of change only work to increase the potential of young girls everywhere, creating an honest representation of the world in which we all live.