New York Fashion Week Runways Were The Most Racially Diverse Yet

After New York Fashion Week ended last September, it looked like the industry was finally beginning to show signs of changing for the better. In its annual diversity report, The Fashion Spot found the 94 shows from the spring/summer 2018 season to more representative across different races, sizes, ages, and genders than ever before. When the report was published, The Washington Post fashion critic Robin Givhan told the website the progress was “undeniable,” but she was more interested how the major design houses would proceed. So how did the fall 2018 runways stack up?
On Thursday, The Fashion Spot released its latest findings for February's New York Fashion Week. First, the good news: The percentage of models of color was up 37.3% from 36.9% last season. Of the 19 models who walked the most shows, eight were people of color: Shanelle Nyasiase appeared in 13 shows, Nandy Nicodeme walked in 11, and Hyun Ji Shin, Jing Wen, Manuela Sanchez, Mona Matsuoka, Naomi Chin Wing, and Yue Han each made 10 appearances.
Gypsy Sport, Chromat, Matthew Adams Dolan, Jeremy Scott, Brandon Maxwell, Alexander Wang, and Vivienne Tam were the most ethnically diverse runways, all featuring over 62.5% models of color. Unfortunately, that’s where the progress stops.
Plus-size model appearances slipped from 34 appearances on nine runways to 26 appearances on eight runways. In September, Torrid skewed the results with its first New York Fashion Week show, as did Addition Elle. According to TFS, plus-size models accounted for 1.1% of all castings. As usual Christian Siriano and Chromat led the charge for body diversity and inclusivity.
The number of models over age 50 also fell from 10 to 9 this season. TFS attributes the dip to Tome, J.Crew, and Tracy Reese — which each typically champion models of all ages — not showing.
The Row and A Détacher finally expanded their model castings to include nonwhite models, but designers Vivienne Hu, Jill Stuart, Zang Toi, and Katie Gallagher had the least diverse runways of the season, with less than four models of color cast for their shows.
There were, however, a record amount of transgender women and non-binary models this season — 33 to be specific (beating spring 2018’s castings by two). Model Teddy Quinlivan walked in 11 shows.
Progress is a slow process, but we shouldn’t continue to rely on the same designers to shoulder the burden of showing the industry what makes a truly diverse runway. It's time the industry as a whole stepped up and made a stronger commitment to more inclusive castings that better reflect what women — its consumer — actually look like.