Here's How Un-Diverse 2014's Fashion Campaigns Were

Photo: Courtesy of Missoni.
Joan Smalls in Missoni's fall 2014 ad campaign, one of few luxury spots fronted by a non-white model.
There's an incredible amount of diversity in fashion — if we're talking about trends. When it comes to the people who sell it, write about it, work within it, and represent it, the industry can seem about as colorful as a blizzard. The Fashion Spot took a look at the casting of 2014's major campaigns and discovered that, while change is coming at a glacial pace, this year held a few moments that signal encouraging progress to come.
Whereas editorials and runway shows serve many functions in the fashion sphere (to attract buyers, to launch trends, to make a splash in the press), the ad campaign has but one: to sell clothing. That means that nothing's taken lightly when it comes to the casting decisions made on those high-impact pages. The fact that 86% of the models represented in 730 ad campaigns in 2014 were white was no accident.
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Here's how that figure compares to reality: According to 2012 census data, the United States is approximately 72% white. When you're looking at the whole world, 12% of the population is white (60% is Asian, and 14% is Black). Of course, fashion advertisements play to people who occupy a certain income bracket and geographic location, but 86% is still a lopsided skew; only one of the 10 most-booked models isn't white — Chinese model Liu Wen.
Says the Fashion Spot's editorial director, Amina Akhtar, the notion of “giving the people what they want” doesn’t exactly hold up.
“Seeing that Liu Wen is in the top 10 most-cast models, and more Asian models being cast, may be reflective of the growing power of the Chinese luxury market. But then, you also have India’s luxury market and customers in other countries who are not white who are being ignored. If you look at mass market brands which are using diverse casts — and doing well with their campaigns — the argument that the consumer wants a white model doesn’t really hold up anymore. I think consumers want good campaigns that are more inclusive. I don’t think we can blame the customers any longer."
Retailers like Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, and H&M are leading the way. Says Akhtar, “Mass retailers were better at casting than almost any one else, and perhaps it’s because they have a broader customer base.” A few designer labels, like DKNY and Marc by Marc Jacobs, have used “real people” in their campaigns to great effect, and a handful of luxury labels are contributing to new standards, too. “We have brands like Miu Miu, Prada, Louis Vuitton, Balmain, Missoni (who was one of the few to have a Black model front a campaign by herself) who did take risks and should be applauded. I hope they keep an open mind with their casting next season, as well.” (tFS)
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