It's been over five years since the fashion industry received its last big wakeup call on the issue of diversity — bookmarked by a biting article in Vogue titled "Is Fashion Racist?" — but, for all intents and purposes, almost nothing has changed. The optimistic side of us likes to think that our society as a whole has made strides (although there's always more work to be done when it comes to racial equality), but our favorite designers seem to be light years behind the curve, to a disheartening degree.
Take the New York shows, for example: This past February, black models accounted for a staggeringly low six percent of looks shown — 82.7 percent were shown on white models. And, even worse, several shows in Europe featured no black models at all (Céline and Dior included). Some of the most influential black models on the scene today report that they struggle more for roles than their white counterparts, being turned down for reasons like "We already have our black girl."
Of course, that's not to say that everyone in the fashion industry turns a blind eye to these upsetting inequalities. Many, including Iman, W's Edward Enninful, and casting director James Scully, are working to enact change — but, they say none will come about unless drastic measures are taken. "It feels to me like the times need a real hard line drawn like in the 1960s, by saying if you don’t use black models, then we boycott," said Iman. "If you engage the social media, trust me, it will hurt them in their pockets. If you take it out there, they will feel the uproar." Several key players are planning to participate in a campaign during September's upcoming Fashion Week, which will directly target designers who fail to use black models, and enlighten consumers to the civil rights issues that are still plaguing the industry.
As much as we'd like it to, change will unfortunately not come overnight. Many experts believe that in addition to calling for more diversity within model casting, the industry needs non-white representation all over the board — from design teams to merchandisers and publicists — in order to instill an improved attitude. "Change always takes time," said Edward Enninful. "The fashion industry needs to breed a whole different way of thinking." There are rumors that designers and creative directors are already beginning to respond to the negative press and possible boycotts — you can bet that, come September, we'll be keeping a closer eye than ever. (The New York Times)
Photo: Via The New York Times