Friday, 20 May 2016

Fashion's Diversity Problem

Racial diversity within the fashion industry is an issue that has arised time and time again, and I know people are thinking this problem is old news but it is also a problem that doesn't seem to be getting any better. At the Fall 2016 runway season alone, 75.25% of the models hired were light-skinned and Caucasian-appearing. That leaves a very small percentage for the models of colour involved. While looking through the runway looks from London, Paris, New York and Milan, I was able to find 10 designers who didn't cast one single model of colour. They are David Koma, Anrealage, Ann Demeulemeester, Noir Kei, Ninomiya, Undercover, Junya Wantabe, Veronique Branquinho, Balenciaga, Vetements and Comme des Garcons.

Labels such as Tom Ford, Givenchy and Balmain excel at using a diverse range of models for their runway shows. Although some of the industry's well respected and celebrated labels like Chanel, Christian Dior and rarely ever cast models of colour. Why is it that they refuse to cast these models?
Buzzfeed talked to James Scully - casting director for Tom Ford, Jason Wu, Derek Lam, Stella McCarthy, Lanvin & Carolina Herrera - to gather his thoughts on the diversity problem.

"[The problem comes from] a mixture of things. The stylist has a lot of say, though. Obviously, the blame can't be put on the stylist alone, but the designer is taking the cue from somebody. I just think it's weird how people are constantly saying, 'But it's about who the girl is and her character.' A fashion show is not a storybook. A great model is a great model, no matter who she is, she can take on any role. I don't understand why only white girls could be that sort of gin-soaked boozy girl in Louis Vuitton this season. A character can be multicultural. We live in a multicultural world. At this point, it's almost irresponsible not to represent that on the runway. I have millions of friends from all over the world, and if they don't see themselves in the product, they don't buy it."
Although the fashion industry itself is becoming more diverse with models of colour regularly being the subject of high profile editorials and campaigns, the runways are just not the same. But what does exist on the runways is tokenism. Calvin Klein will put one black girl in their show every second season or so, not because they believe that a black woman deserves a place in their show, but to avoid getting in trouble for no diversity. Versace was able to use Joan Smalls in their advertising but why wasn't she walking in their Fall 2016 show? 

It's as if this diversity problem is getting worse rather than getting better. Back in the day Naomi Campbell was a household name and Veronica Webb was one of the top models in the world. So why can't Joan Smalls be a household name today? She has a killer walk and slays every editorial, campaign or show that she does, but will probably never get the credibility that Naomi Campbell had because the runway diversity problem is getting worse rather than getting better. 
Designer Demna Gvsalia for Paris 'It' label, Vetements, and power house label, Balenciaga, has the audacity to be a defiant voice among the process of creating a more intergrated fashion world. He has designed more than 5 collections and has hired approximately 206 models, in all this time he has only used one black model on the runway. His castings are completely out of touch with the reality of today's world. If we were to put the future of fashion in his hands it would be weirdly one-dimensional and melanin-free.

Vetements Fall 2016 collection was American-themed with reworked street wear, leather coats and over the knee boots. All exclusively worn by white models which does not reflect the racial diversity of America. 
Another designer who was facing backlash due to an all white runway was Misha Collection. Misha Collection is one of the most anticipated fashion shows at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in Australia. Bella Hadid was also making her runway debut at this show, so you can only imagine the hype leading up to it. But at this years show the label caused outrage. 

IMG models (the agency that represents Bella Hadid) posted a video of the Misha Collection finale on instagram and people noticed that the song was BeyoncĂ©'s 'Formation', yet there wasn't one black woman used in the show. The post was quickly met with controversy. One person commented, "This song is an ode to powerful black women around the world, so where are the black women?" BeyoncĂ©'s song 'Formation' is something that all races can enjoy and feel empowered by. But it unapologetically celebrates the black woman and represents all that is #BlackGirlMagic.
In this day and age where the colour of your skin is undeniably a global political issue, when there are protests and acts of expressing disapproval and objection to this - it is difficult to believe that one person can be so blinded to only want to create fashion is only exhibited for white people.
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