The growth of diversity in the fashion industrY (NYFW 2016)
Everyone must have seen pictures of this year's NYFW (spring/summer season) which was a couple of weeks back. Pictures were all over Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. A lot of comments were shared about the increase in diversity this year.
Fashion has always had a racial diversity problem especially when it comes to the models. Fashion is often inspired by the style of non- white minority groups but most times, there's usually a thin line created when distinguishing between “inspiration” and “cultural appropriation”. When things like this happen, designers are usually called out by their fans on social media regarding culture appropriation. For example, Valentino’s spring/ summer line in 2015 (S/S16) which was inspired by African culture. This line had amazing pieces but more than 70% of the models he used on the runway were caucasian and the had cornrows on their hair.
Another example is Marc Jacobs who used mostly caucasian models on the runway this year (NYFW S/S17) and had them wear their hair in the form of fake dreadlocks. After these incidents, most fans were upset and they started calling the designers out on social media and leaving angry comments on their various profiles. Due to the fact that racial discrimination has been a continuous problem in the fashion industry, designers need to be extremely careful because their intentions might be perceived wrongly. Some of these designers might not have any harmful intentions in mind, but their actions may be easily misinterpreted.
Anyway, the diversity this year was beautiful. There was a designer at the NYFW, Anniesa Hasibuan who made history by showing the first ever collection to feature models wearing hijabs on the runway (a Hijab is a head covering worn by muslim women in respect to their religious beliefs).
There were also designers such as Brandon Maxwell at the Spring/ summer season who had an equal proportion of colored and non- colored models to walk the runway for him. Before the Spring/ summer season, reports were made after the fall season in February stating that there out of the 120 shows of the season
Models are often referred to as “walking hangers” for designers, This simply means that models are just modes of transportation for garments on the runway. They are used to attract customers to a designer’s line of clothing.
When designers are asked about their use of only Caucasian models, A lot of them hide behind the term “aesthetic.” These certain designers blindly ignore their customers and fans, therefore having an aesthetic” becomes indistinguishable from “being racist.” In 2013, supermodels Naomi Campbell and Iman alongside fashion activist and former model Bethann Anderson called out the designers who refused to use models of color in their runway shows during New York fashion week fall/winter. such as Donna Karen, The Row, Victoria Beckham and Calvin Klein. The three women were not calling the designers racists, they were only calling the act an example of racism. Bethann Anderson did write a letter to the CFDA’s heads of the London, Milan and Paris fashion shows. After all this awareness, things did start to change and the number of colored models began to increase from 0 to at least 5- 7.
After this, there was some form of change but it still wasn’t enough.
“Black models matter”, said by fashion designer Zac Posen during New York Fashion week this year in february (Fall/ Winter season). For that season, 25 out of 33 models chosen for his runway show were black women. This included Tasha Moore and Viviane Oliveira.
He chose to close his fall 2016 collection with Ugandan model Aamito Lagum who was his royal muse for his collection which was inspired by Ugandan Princess Elizabeth of Toro.
This year, right from the fall/ winter season in February till the spring/ summer season this month, there has been a lot of feedback about New York fashion week in terms of diversity which is beautiful and it should remain that way because diversity is the one thing we all have in common as human beings