Every season, the subject of diversity on runways comes up, for better or worse. While many seasons see a few more models of color taking the catwalk, the change is so slow that it's sometimes imperceptible. With Fashion Month spanning four cities and countless shows, having one additional Asian, Black, or Latinx model doesn't really seem like the industry taking steps towards inclusion. That all changed today with Kenzo's spring 2018 presentation, which featured an all-Asian cast. And in another twist, the show blended both the brand's men's and women's collections.
"We took a really directional casting this season," Leon told Vogue of the decision to cast only Asian models. It wasn't merely an act of fashion rebellion. Leon and his co-designer, Carol Lim, said that the all-Asian cast was a way to reflect the inspiration for the collections.
Elle adds that there was a total of 83 models, with some making a special trip to Paris from Japan, Korea, or Taiwan to walk in the show. A pair of Asian muses, Sayoko Yamaguchi and Ryuichi Sakamoto, inspired the collection as the designers imagined the two meeting in real life, something that never actually happened. Yamaguci was a supermodel that worked with the actual Kenzo Takada when he was still at the helm of the line and Sakamoto is a contemporary musician. That mashup of model and musician may seem cliché, but the inclusion of aerial dancers between the two collections made it anything but the usual fashion show.
"We celebrate two muses, one who represents the modern view of the house and one from its past," Lim and Leon wrote in the show notes. "For both collections we aim to capture the duality of the two figures, we look to the era when they both ruled two distant continents; to Ryuichi's personal flair when questioning the norm, and to Sayoko's ability to mix patterns, prints, silhouettes, and colors."
At the end of the two shows, the models came together en masse. Paper declared it a "powerful message on the importance of diversity." Knowing how Lim and Leon have addressed current events in the past — recent Kenzo collections have addressed the environment, climate change, and politics — it seems that this statement was loud and clear. Representation is possible. Designers just have to want it.
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