Spring '16 Fashion Ads Are (Slightly) More Racially Diverse, Less Inclusive Otherwise

While the ongoing conversation about diversity in the fashion industry (in modeling in particular) has focused primarily on the abysmal lack of color on the catwalks, the casting practices for ad campaigns have been pretty whitewashed too. The spring '16 campaigns show a bit of improvement: According to The Fashion Spot's latest diversity report, released this morning, 21.8% of the castings in this season's ads were models of color and 78.2% were white models, based on 236 campaigns featuring 422 models.
Photo: Courtesy of Kate Spade New York.

While that number could (and certainly should) be much higher, it's an improvement from the fall '15 ads, which featured a paltry 15.3% models of color, based on The Fashion Spot's fall '15 report, and a 6.5% bump is certainly a (small) measure of improvement. (To note, the fall '15 report was more expansive, looking at 460 ad campaigns, featuring a total of 707 models.)

The vast majority of the most in-demand campaign girls in the spring '16 images were white (shocker!) — 12 out of 14 of the models with the highest number of bookings were white. Lexi Boling was the most in-demand model for both fall '15 and spring '16 ads, scoring eight campaigns apiece both seasons.

This season's campaigns had a racial diversity breakdown of 8.3% black models, 4% Asian models, and 3.8% Latina models. By comparison, the fall '15 season shows had 24.75% non-white models. Versace, Saint Laurent, Forever 21, Miu Miu, and BCBGMaxAzria were highlighted for having three or more women in their campaigns with zero women of color. (Versace and Saint Laurent were called out in the fall '15 ad campaign diversity report as well.) On the brighter side, campaigns from Alexander Wang, Calvin Klein Jeans, and Marc Jacobs were lauded for their diverse castings.

As for the breakdown of the non-white faces gracing the pages of glossies and being plastered on billboards: Black models comprised 8.3% of castings, followed by 4% Asian models and 3.8% Latina models. That's an improvement for Black and Latina models — both groups were cast twice as much as in the fall '15 campaigns. (However, Asian models saw a slight decrease, of 2.2%, in campaign coups from the fall '15 ads versus spring '16 ads.)

While there's slight improvement in terms of racial representation, things are looking pretty bleak in terms of other diversity metrics. First off: Not a single transgender model was featured in a spring '16 campaign. That's pretty shocking, considering attitudes toward the transgender community have been increasingly more inclusive, particularly in the fashion industry (and Hollywood, too). The fall '15 ad campaigns included three transgender models, though the season prior there weren't any at all.

In terms of size diversity, a mere six models from the 422 castings for the spring '16 ads looked at in the diversity report were plus-size — and five of those six castings were for plus-size lines at mass brands. Plus, there weren't any plus-size models of color. By contrast, for fall '15 campaigns, plus-size women were cast 11 times (1.5% of all castings), with just a single plus-size model of color.

And then there's age diversity: It might've been a tokenistic trend for a brief spell. An amazing array of septuagenarians and octogenarians appeared in campaigns (many for luxury labels) over the past few seasons, including Joan Didion for Céline, Joni Mitchell for Saint Laurent, and Cher for Marc Jacobs. There were a whopping 22 cameos by older models in the fall '15 campaigns — compared to just five castings in the spring '16 ads. (Kate Spade New York's ads, pictured above, showcased a lot of age diversity.)

While it's great to see the racial diversity stats inch up slightly from last season's spate of ads, let's hope the numbers continue to climb in coming seasons. As for gender, age, and size diversity, things ought to change more drastically going forward...

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