Most diverse fashion season should be celebrated, though it is still not enough

Non-white models can celebrate knowing that more and more, the fashion industry is realizing the undeniable beauty of diversity. This year’s spring fashion month had the highest percentage of non-white models on the runways in the world’s leading fashion capitals: New York, Milan, Paris and London, since TheFashionSpot began tracking it five seasons ago.

Women of color made up 25.4 percent of models on the runway during spring 2017’s fashion month, according to TFS’s Diversity Report. The summary looked at 299 shows and nearly 9,000 models, and included a breakdown of body size, gender, age and race.

Before the spring season began, the Council of Fashion Designers of America and the Diversity Coalition advised the industry to feature more models of color with a set of racial diversity guidelines in hopes to improve and evolve standards of beauty.

Diane von Furstenberg and Steven Kolb issued a health initiative letter with a list of six tips to gain runway diversity, including their objective to “make a shift on how the model of color is viewed so it becomes natural to see them participating each season in a greater number than seasons past.”

During spring 2017, New York City took the crown yet again for having the most diverse lineups. 30 percent of NYC models were of color. As high as this number may sound, they had less representation then they did last season, in fall 2016. Paris ranked second, followed by London and Milan. While black, Middle Eastern and Latina models gained more attention, Asians saw a minor dip in castings, compared to the prior season.

The Yeezy Season 4 show led as the most diverse, casting 97 percent of the show with nonwhite models. Designers like Kimora Lee Simmons, Ashish, Brandon Maxwell and Telfar joined Kanye West in the leader’s circle. Unfortunately, despite CFDA’s call-to-action, some designers didn’t bat an eyelash to inclusion efforts. Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen’s brand, The Row, featured exclusively white models. Along with Junya Watanabe, Mila Schon, Daniela Gregis and Anrealage, all the models were white.

In general, racial inclusion improved this season, but diversity in age, gender, and body size still needs work. Of the 9,000 models, 13 were aged 50 or older, just two more than the previous season. In addition, only 10 transgender models walked the runways.

Plus-size models did not get the representation they deserved either. In New York, only 16 models were plus-size and not one strutted a European runway. This is upsetting and surprising considering body positivity efforts in media. Refinery29’s 67% Project last month gave a voice to the “invisible majority” — women in America sized 12-14 — and featured images of curvy women in 67 percent of its content. It is apparent that designers and modeling agencies are taking longer to see the importance of body-diversity.

All in all, fashion is becoming more inclusive in runway shows and print, but work still needs to be done in all arenas of identity. Though this is the first year the percentage of racial inclusion was over 25, this isn’t enough. Minorities worldwide make up much more of the population than this. Fashion is an art, and designers are allowed to curate their own vision. But the success of a company is dependent on communication with society and the reflection of its values. Once runways are truly representative of the community as a whole, then onlookers and aspiring models can feel more comfortable vying for roles in the industry.

Darriea Clark is a junior magazine journalism major. You can reach her at and follow her for more stylish updates on Instagram and Twitter @babefromthesun.


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