By Jenni Sellan

If there were an ‘IT’ word in fashion right now, a trend to follow for 2018, it would be diversity.

We see it stealing the attention of the media and new platforms are emerging for individuals within the industry who had not previously been gifted with a key. (It took Candice Huffine 16 years in the industry before she landed a cover and graced Elle’s May 2017 edition).

body diversity fashion
body diversity fashion

Looking retrospectively at 2017 the industry cited important shifts across the diversity spectrum and for the year that was, racial diversity came out the winner with 32.5% of the top international publications featuring people of colour, a 3.5% increase over 2017. (The fashion spot)

Body diversity saw a marginal increase from the previous year and it’s greatest triumph the inclusion of 90 ‘plus size’ models on the runways for Spring Fashion Week in New York. The real figures though revealing that the 90 who walked, represented less than 4% of the 2601 runway appearances in total. Not quite as impressive, but yes still an important step in the right direction.

The least exciting number for body diversity was it’s representation across the top international publications with just 1% of plus size models featured, showing a marginal increase on 2016’s 0.9%. That number equates to just 8 covers out of 679 belonging to a model, size 12 or over.

These numbers are significant because they tell a story and part of that narrative is that the real work on the inclusion of diverse representation within the fashion industry has only just begun with much work needing to be done if we want to see this small yet meaningful increasing advancing to normal.

The Fashion Law cited the Washington Post fashion critic Robin Givhan in stating,

“We need to get to a point at which inclusiveness feels organic. And IS organic. That we get to a point where the shows feel like they are speaking to the wide range of consumers, but without turning the runway into some kind of human assembly line in which one-of-each is the standard.” 

As consumers, we look to the industry to lead the change, but are our expectations a little misplaced? Is it only the responsibility of the ‘giants’?

I have been recently challenged myself with this question; not that of the importance of diversity in body image because I am 100% behind that, but found myself wrestling with how this belief shows up in my own life and in my work as a fashion stylist.

The catalyst, a newly launched swimwear label I was introduced to, Harmony Swim.
This is a brand that not only speaks the message of beauty at every size, but also demonstrates the heart of their message visually in the upfront marketing of their brand, and that, is unfortunately rare.

So the question remains. How authentic is our support of body diversity in our everyday? Do we genuinely back the message or are we simply giving it lip service? How do we really feel about cellulite on the runway, in our magazines and instagram feeds? Are we comfortable with that? And if the answer is yes, how are we personally promoting that message?

And to the high street and mainstream fashion brands, the brands that the vast majority of us are wearing; size ranges might well be available from a size 4 to a 16, but how many of them are using size 16 models to front campaigns?

The requirement doesn’t just rest on the shoulders of Vogue or Harpers Bazaar, or even New York Fashion Week. It has to become ingrained in our personal value system as individuals, as consumers, as fashion retailers, and as designers, stylists, photographers, and hair and make up artists, creative directors and influencers.
And yes, Vogue.

My feeling is that it’s going to take a shift from ‘the one’ to fuel and support the work that is being done at the top.

The truth is the platform for body diversity is emerging even if the stats look small and new opportunities are starting to develop but this mountain is a long way from being conquered and until we start to consider our individual role in the game, 1% just might remain 1%.

Let’s be the game changers. #isupportbodydiversity