With New York Fashion Week behind us, Jezebel decided to conduct a study on the diversity of the models, or lack thereof, who walked down the runway at New York Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2014.
In previous years, people have commented on the lack of representation of models of color. In fact, the Fall/Winter 2013 collections were subject to heavy criticism due to an alarming number of companies — Araks, Assembly, Belstaff, Calvin Klein, Elizabeth & James, Gregory Parkinson, J Brand, Jenni Kayne, Juicy Couture, Louise Goldin, Lyn Devon, Threeasfour, and Whit — 13 in all, that featured only white models.
So naturally, we were eager to see what would happen this past Fashion Week. Companies had to try and remedy this diversity gap, right? And there were nearly 5,000 looks. That’s plenty of opportunity for models of color to take on the runway.
The results? Almost 80 percent of those 5,000 looks were modeled by white women, a number that has pretty much remained static since 2008.
This is not to say that all designers completely ignored the criticism of previous years. Anna Sui, Pamella Roland, Jeremy Scott, Dennis Basso, Vivienne Tam, KaufmanFranco, Rachel Comey, Alice + Olivia, Ohne Titel, Tracy Reese, Thom Brown, Diane von Furstenberg and Zac Posen are on the list of designers who featured at least 30 percent models of color. While this number may still seem rather low, it is unfortunately the best we’ve got.
Many of the designers who were critiqued for having no models of color tried to remedy this by adding three to five non-white models. (We know. We’re rolling our eyes, too.)
Some designers tried to trick the crowd and give the illusion of a more diverse set of models. While this season seemed to be more diverse, the same models of color were being booked and were simply walking the runway multiple times.
The Asian models above prove this. Tian Yi walked 15, Yumi Lambert was seen in at least 13 and Ji Hye Park and Liu Wen walked 12 shows. Rather than book a variety of models of color, companies relied on the same faces.
Somali supermodel Iman Abdulmajid was part of the crowd watching this season’s New York Fashion Week and noticed the lack of diversity on the runway.
“I’ve always said runways and photos are important to shape our young girls,” Abdulmajid said in an interview last week. “To see models of color on the runway is important to the self-esteem of our young girls. To see otherwise makes them feel like they can be in or out.”
We can only cross our fingers that those in power in the fashion industry also begin to understand the importance of diversity on the runways.