Jezebel is reporting that the recent New York fashion week boasted the least racially diverse model lineup since in three years. According to writer Jenna Sauers, of the 5,269 looks presented in the week’s 137 runway shows, 4,468 of them were displayed on White bodies. The 801 looks shown by non-White women included 384 worn by Black women, 323 by Asian models and 79 by non-White Latinas; women of other races only present 15 of the week’s looks.
According to Jez’s meticulous research, the designers who did feature diverse casts of models included Diane von Furstenberg, Elie Tahari, Jason Wu, Nanette Lepore, Nicole Miller, Oscar de la Renta, Proenza Schouler, Rachel Roy, Ralph Lauren, Thakoon Panichgul, and Tracy Reese. Among those who had largely White casts included: BCBG Max Azria, Calvin Klein, Cynthia Rowley, Diesel, Donna Karan, Hervé Leger by Max Azria, Jill Stuart, Narciso Rodriguez, Rodarte, and Vera Wang (a disappointing list, especially considering how many sisters wear some of these brands; shame on Vera Wang for not featuring a single Asian model, btw). There were also five entirely White shows: Theyskens’ Theory, Luca Luca, and Tara Subkoff’s Imitation.
It’s worth noting that though America is still majority White, that 1) New York’s fashion week is a global presentation by designers from across the majority non-White world and 2) there is something curious about having a show in a city that is as diverse as this one, and yet opting to feature so many White faces. Diversity is everywhere in New York. So why is White still by and large considered to be the most beautiful when it comes to the runway?
In recent years, there have been protests and panels and endless discussions about the overwhelming Whiteness of the major runway shows; models of color show up year after year to the casting calls, only to see the same thing repeated each season. This begs a few questions: is this a fight worth having? Should the models and designers who champion diversity create their own fashion week in protest? Or have we not caused enough of a ruckus to rightfully expect a change? There is a notion that White consumers will be less interested in products that are presented using people of color; hence, the lack of diversity in advertising, the random White characters on Black sitcoms who were obviously thrown in to bait non-Black audiences.
Shall we continue to demand representation from a group of people who either don’t find diversity to be beautiful or don’t feel its profitable enough to embrace?