New York Fashion Week ended Thursday with black models of every shade prancing down the catwalk. At first glance, it’s encouraging and exciting to see the likes of Joan Smalls, Arlenis Sosa, Cora Emmanuel, and Jourdan Dunn strut alongside newer faces like Jasmine Tookes, Grace Mahary, and Maria Borges; but the truth is, black models are still not represented evenly at New York Fashion Week.
Outside of a small pantheon of designers that consistently cast black models to represent their work including Tracy Reese, Stephen Burrows, Carolina Herrera, Rachel Roy, and Diane von Furstenberg, black models are still tokens on most runways, or shut out altogether.
Of the roughly 168 designers that presented their Spring 2013 collections in New York, 40 — that’s nearly 25 percent — did not use a single black model. Though most designers cast at least one to walk in their show, pose in their presentation, or feature in the look book they sent press, less than 25 designers hired three or more models of African descent.
The story was similar last spring. Out of 170 Spring 2012 fashion shows, again 40 were missing a black face. If anything, last year was a better season for black models as 47 designers used more than two black models in their shows — more than double the number of designers that did so this season.
Disturbingly, the spring seasons are typically more favorable to black models. As designers seek to show off their warm-weather lines against darker skin tones, they tend to hire black models more liberally. In the Fall 2012 collections, designers previewed just six months ago, 56 (out of 180) did not feature one black model. Again, only 24 designers went beyond the one token model to cast three or more blacks.