LONDON, United Kingdom —Nearly 28 percent of models who walked the runways of New York, London, Milan and Paris this season, were defined as diverse, the highest number recorded by online forum The Fashion Spot since it began compiling data two-and- a-half years ago.
But while the findings show that diversity is increasing overall, so too has the definition of what it means to be a diverse model. This season, The Fashion Spot included age, size and transgender status in its definition of diversity. And while all categories certainly deserve recognition in the report, a direct comparison of the latest season’s numbers with last season’s, makes the industry’s progress appear greater than it actually is.
The Autumn/Winter 2017 season report, looked at 241 shows and 7,035 model castings that took place across the four major fashion capitals. It found that the number of diverse models rose by 2.5 percent to 27.9 percent in February.
Plus-size models made up 0.43 percent of all castings for the Autumn/Winter 2017 season, models aged over 50 accounted for 0.29 percent, and transgender models made up 0.17 percent, totalling 0.89 percent. By stripping out the broader definition of diversity and focusing solely on race, the use of models of colour only increased by 1.6 percent this season.
Among the brands that were most inclusive were Chromat, Marc Jacobs, Tome, Christian Siriano, Dolce & Gabbana, Simone Rocha and J. Crew, which all cast a minimum of 21 percent of models of colour, as well as plus-size, older and transgender models within their castings.
Model agencies are not afraid now to select a girl of colour, of any colour.
Explaining the report’s new, more inclusive definition of diversity, The Fashion Spot editor-in-chief Jennifer Davidson told The New York Times: “As more calls for racial diversity started, there were calls also for different sizes. Age and transgender identity haven’t gotten as much visibility, but we thought it was important to highlight those in order to make sure the runways become more representative of the population buying the clothes.”
The findings come at a challenging time for the modelling industry, which has been hit by accusations of bullying, cruelty and discrimination, a conversation initiated by leading casting director James Scully who made an emotional address to guests at BoF’s VOICES gathering in December.
Still, the results are encouraging and show that agencies and casting directors are working harder to improve the lack of diversity within the modelling industry.
“What I find to be most impressive and what has grown is the fact that I see the visual difference,” says Bethann Hardison, former model, activist and founder of the Diversity Coalition. “I feel the visual difference. I can see it. Model agencies are not afraid now to select a girl of colour, of any colour, when I say a girl of colour, I’m always thinking black, Asian, Latin.”
“They go for the edge, they go for something unusual, they are ready to go down, and that’s very very good,” she continues. “These are the things that I think are the most important. These are the battlegrounds that I think is important to accomplish.”