Diversity is undoubtedly one of the biggest issues in the fashion industry. Size, age, skin colour, ethnicity; you name it, we’ll argue about it. There’s a new story each week about misrepresentation of minorities and the over-saturation of skinny, white models and it seems that no matter what’s said or done, there’s always another issue to tackle.
I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining about it. I think that diversity is important and we won’t get there without fighting for it. But as the fight for diversity starts to get a few wins here and there, I can’t help but feel like it’s all just for show.
Hear me out…
Since promoting a healthy body image became a priority in the fashion media, all of a sudden designers began to strut a plus size model down the runway amongst their line-up of size 0-2 models. On the surface it seems like a great move toward the right direction but when you look at what the models are wearing, plus size girls are either forced into styles that haven’t been designed for their curves or are wearing the singular look in the whole collection that can be worn comfortably by someone larger than a size 2.
High fashion brands including a plus size model get a plethora of media coverage yet celebrities that aren’t sample size are still finding it hard to get designers to dress them for red carpet events. Are you starting to see why it seems like the token plus size model is just for show?
The same tends to go for ethnic models and most specifically, black models. There seems to be only two, max. three spots available on each runway for ethnic girls, especially in Europe. These two or three girls are then used as the cover girls of media stories as ‘proof’ that a brand or designer is embracing diversity with the fact that they are making up only a tiny fraction of the models walking during fashion week.
Then we get to age. This season’s fashion month saw the more diversity than ever when it came to age when Versace sent a roster of original supers down the runway. It was great to see but the glory only latest the briefest of moments before we were seeing story after story about 16-year-old Kaia Gerber being the hero of fashion week. If we’re being realistic, what 16 year old is going out and buying luxury designer clothing? Teens aren’t the market for these high-end brands so why are they using so many of them to sell their clothes. It feeds the industry’s obsession with youth and takes the fight for diversity back a few steps.
There’s no clear answer to solving the industry’s diversity issue. Whilst we need to be more inclusive, shaming thin, white models for being the norm isn’t going to work. For now, it’s important we celebrate any little win and continue to promote actual diversity, not just the tokenism we’re currently seeing.