#eye #eye

why are we celebrating when there's so much to do?

Magazine covers and Spring/Summer 2018 are the most diverse to date. But honestly, it's not enough.


words by Olivia Kellerman
Racial diversity in the fashion industry is a topic that is discussed every season, but this year we can officially say that the international catwalk shows Spring/Summer 2019 have been the most diverse to date. Some designers have decided to wake up, look around and see the diverse societies that we live in. But, let’s be honest this is long overdue. If you think that we’ve come leaps and bounds because you’ve read one of the many articles covering Rihanna’s FENTY X SAVAGE show in New York, then I’ll forgive you for being very wrong.

If the inclusion of non-white models on the catwalk was disappointing, the same cannot be said of magazines, as women of colour dominated the covers this September. Vogue, Elle, Marie Claire & Porter are just a few of the magazines that featured women of colour on their covers. I hoped that this would inspire and highlight to people in the industry that times are changing, but sadly I’ve been proven wrong. I dare even mention the lack of Asian representation & age or size diversity on these covers.  53 years ago the first black model, Donyale Luna appeared on the cover of Harpers Bazaar, in 1965. Since then I can only name a hand full of black woman that graced the cover of these coveted magazines. 50 years later, Rihanna is the first black woman on the cover of British Vogue.

I question whether these magazines are making the decision to have black women on their covers because they know that it’s right or because they know it sells. These covers, circled social media rapidly with young people celebrating a new burst of diversity they were seeing in the industry. But what millennial doesn’t want to see Rihanna looking stunning on the cover of British Vogue or pregnant model Slick Woods on the cover of Elle UK?

Aurora James, creative director at Brother Vellies, a brand that’s goal is “preserving the shoemaking craft in Africa” told The Cut magazine, “Fashion has a bad habit of making very surface-level changes.” which is what has happened this season. 36.1% of non-white models made this season the most diverse ever, which admittedly is a great achievement for the industry. Designers are identifying that changes need to be made and brands like Chromat who pride themselves on choosing a diverse range of models to showcase their swimsuit range.

New York had 44.8% models of colour – mostly down to Chromat and Rihanna’s FENTY X SAVAGE collection. Paris and Milan are the worst offenders in choosing a diverse range of models for their catwalk shows, with less than 20% in total. Gucci, Maison Margiela and Celine, who cast 9 out of 96 models of colour, were just some of the brands that didn’t have more than a few non-white models. Making casting seem more like an after-thought. And there are still brands that don’t cast any models of colour, like Danila Gregis at Milan who’s line up of 13 models didn’t feature even one non-white model. It’s hard to think of why these forward-thinking and talented designers still don’t cast models of colour.

Earlier this year Rei Kawakubo, Japanese designer at Comme Des Garçon, featured four black models for the first time in 20 years of the brand's history. Well, great. But it took 20 years for it to happen. It is shocking to me and yes it is “one for the brand's history books” as Kenya Hunt said in Elle Online. Yet, in my eyes, it’s come way too late.

I spoke to young stylist Jassinta Carr, who worked backstage at London Fashion Week, she thought that “women of colour are represented in the industry, however, it is a restricted perspective that doesn’t fully let women of colour express themselves. Currently, non-white models fall into two categories. A few of the most book models were either fair skinned, like Asian models Sora Choi or Hyun Ji Shin who both booked for over 30 shows. Or were very dark skinned like Adut Akech who booked 33 shows the season.

The industry isn’t pushing the importance of racial diversity and it isn’t as inclusive as the stats are showing. Catwalk shows continue to present a stereotypical image of women who are young, thin and white, and the very narrow representation of women of colour does not do enough to reflect the multi-cultural, diverse society we are living in.