As much as we respect the artistry, genetics, and talent that goes into professional modeling, it's not exactly the most feel-good line of work. At a casting for a major show, a lot more can go wrong than right for a potential runway star: You're either too fat or too thin, too "exotic" or too plain, too tall or too short, too smizey or not smizey enough. The rules are strict and often unfair, and racial diversity is no exception. White, blonde girls tend to dominate, with Asian models in a close second. But Jezebel has some encouraging new information: Those numbers are changing.
While white models still booked nearly 80% of spring '13 collections, the number of Asian models rose about 1.3%. Black models did not book significantly more shows this year (only .1%), but their representation has nearly doubled in the last four years. But it's not all good news: Latina models, on the other hand, have seen a significant dip in bookings since Jezebel's first report in 2008, nearly a full percent. And 6% of all shows — including the Olsen twins' Elizabeth & James and The Row, See by Chloé, Calvin Klein, and MM6 Maison Martin Margiela featured entirely white runways, and 20% of all shows had less than three non-white models.
Some shows that did represent? Oscar de la Renta, Ralph Lauren, 3.1 Phillip Lim, Jason Wu, Jeremy Scott, Zac Posen, and Jen Kao. Prabal Gurung also used a diverse cast, and said that though he didn't deliberately cast Asian models, he told the Wall Street Journal that he does believe "personally and professionally that there's beauty in every race. I have a 6-year-old niece, and in a few years she will be aware of all this stuff, and I want to make sure there are enough role models for her. Beauty is beauty."
Well said, Prabal. We personally think that any show is enhanced when the models are more than just a blank canvas — and we're not just talking about identical fair-skinned, blonde-haired clones. Regardless of skin color, a little bit of personality goes a long way toward one of the ultimate goals of a collection: allowing consumers to visualize and aspire toward another season of creative expression through clothing.
Photos: William Okpo Spring 2013, photographed by Janelle Jones.