NYFW Involved A Lot Of Talk About Inclusivity — But How Diverse Were The Runways?

Photo: Gonzalo Marroquin/Patrick McMullan/Getty Images.
New York Fashion Week's fall '17 showings were pretty politically-charged, so there was inevitably going to be more scrutiny about how brands not only paid lip service to inclusivity but also actively enacted it at their presentations. The Fashion Spot keeps a record of how designers are performing in terms of diversity every season throughout Fashion Month. This season, NYFW castings were an improvement over the spring '17 shows, but there's still plenty to be desired in terms of runway representation.

The Fashion Spot reports that for the fall '17 season, 31.5% of models cast during NYFW were non-white. Plus, six of the 10 most-booked women this time around were women of color — a first in recent memory, according to the site's tally. While fall '16 still stands out as the most racially diverse season on record, with 31.6% non-white models, this February saw a new, encouraging trend: Every single brand that presented during NYFW cast at least one model of color, The Fashion Spot noted. It's wild that this is only now a first — but, hey, it's still progress nonetheless.

Body diversity was also top of mind this season: many designers showed fall '17 collections that weren't strictly sample-sized. Prabal Gurung, who has a collection with plus-size retailer Lane Bryant coming out later this month, had two curve models in his show. Michael Kors, meanwhile, booked Ashley Graham. Overall, 26 plus-size models walked this season in total, per the Diversity Report — 10 of which were at Christian Siriano.

Two other categories that are historically underrepresented in fashion are age and gender identity — and this season only further highlighted that. For starters, there were only six models over the age of 50 across all of NYFW's fall '17 shows (two less than there were for spring), per The Fashion Spot's tally. And cisgender individuals still made up the majority of castings. The number of transgender models cast across shows and presentations remained eight, the same as it did for the past two seasons.

All of these stats (and the resulting optics) definitely matter, though. "Like a pyramid, there are a small group of gatekeepers at the top who decide which models will represent the beauty ideal, and these models reflect these individuals' tastes and preferences — and, of course, their biases," The Model Alliance's Sara Ziff told The Fashion Spot. But brands might not feel the need to change how they've been conducting and presenting their business unless customers speak out (with their wallets). However, Ziff noted to the publication that we should still be weary of tokenism, and not mistake a few steps forward for an unequivocal, profound shift in how the industry perceives "models across categories — models of various sizes, ages, races and gender identities." So, we'll be keeping a sharp eye on catwalks across the globe.
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