Over the weekend, Kanye West caused a social-media storm when he tweeted the casting call for his upcoming Yeezy Season 4 show, taking place this Wednesday during New York Fashion Week. The ceaselessly controversial star stated that he was looking for "multiracial women only" in his model call. Understandably, people weren't pleased.
In an industry that is infamously non-representative, more inclusivity and racial diversity is undoubtedly necessary on the catwalk, but judging from the incensed reactions, West has gone about it in entirely the wrong way. Twitter was ablaze with users angered by the ambiguous term "multiracial." What does multiracial even mean? Aren't we all, to some degree, multiracial? Doesn't a term, which we can only assume is akin to "mixed race," exclude those with darker or lighter skin tones? Was West calling for no white or Black people, just those somewhere in-between? And how, pray tell, did West plan to assess models' ethnic mix?
In March of this year, Demna Gvasalia, fashion's most lauded designer-of-the-moment was condemned for casting only white models in both the Vetements and Balenciaga fall/winter '16 shows during Paris Fashion Week. When he was asked about his discriminatory casting in May by The Telegraph, Gvaslia answered, “Our criteria for choosing models was purely based on the idea of diversity of character. We had very different types of girls but Lotta [Volkova, stylist and model] who works with me, we come from this cultural background where [race] is not even an issue. We don’t even have that thing to think we have to be politically correct. I guess the criticism is justified, but from my point of view it was the attitude of those girls that was important for me not the shade of their skin or their origin.” The half-hearted answer left most critics unimpressed. But it seemed Gvasalia learned from his mistakes — or was disgruntled by the bad press — and included non-white models in his Vetements couture show in July. Isn't Kanye's call for "multiracial" models only as insulting as Demna's denial of ethnic minorities in the fall '16 shows? Last season, The Fashion Spot analyzed all of the models who hit the A/W '16 catwalks in New York, London, Paris, and Milan. Results showed that about 75% of all models cast were white. When will the fashion world wake up and become the accepting, celebratory, and ethnically rich place that it ought to be in 2016? As the spring/summer '17 season looms, we can only hope that the catwalks will be more representative than ever and that brands will be inspired to be more inclusive in response to West's ill-conceived casting call. Despite the controversy, the Yeezy casting was attended by a large number of eager hopefuls who lined in droves at Jack Studios in New York. We'll have to wait until Wednesday to understand exactly what West means by "multiracial," but let's hope he decides to cast a diverse range of models.