Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Critical Thinking: “Is the fashion industry continuing to show a bias toward white models and a lack of diversity?”


(Source: Internet. Picture taken during Dolce & Gabbana fashion clearly showed the overwhelm of white models in number compared to other races)

Since the early era of fashion industry, the catwalk society has been dominated by white models. Allegedly, Russia, Ukraine, Europe and North America are considered as the birthplaces of majority of international models. Some of them are recognized worldwide as legendary supermodel of the 90’s such as Heidi Klum, Helena Christensen, Kate Moss, Claudia Schiffer, Kristen McMenamy and Eva Herzigová. On catwalk or during advertising campaign – on magazines or on promotion banners, what the public usually saw at that time - was the intensified appearances of white models in almost every product. However, the trend of modeling started to shift to a more diversified form when the fashion world was shaken up by the powerful appearance of supermodel Naomi Campbell in the late 90s. Naomi Campbell was the first black model to appear on fashion magazines and was considered as the new “wind of change” that pushed the fashion industry to finally take a better look at the other race models. Since then, a new era of fashion modeling has opened up and provided opportunities to both designers and colored models to collaborate for a change of diversity, uniqueness and creativeness. There are colored models that appeared side by side with other white colleagues in advertising campaign. They also appeared in magazines, representing fashion lines, being front face for different products and even achieved great success in their careers (such as Tyra Banks, Jordan Dunn, Liu Wen, etc…). Still, it didn’t bring enough sufficiency to break through the hard reality of modeling – the fashion society continues to bias the white models over colored models. A lot of talented young colored models are reportedly struggled with casting issues. On the other hand, researchers have been providing some positive statistic number such as the percentage of white models walking in the NY Fashion Week 2014 dropped from 87% to 78% compared to an increase from 8% to 18% of colored models. It’s true that we clearly see a slight improvement of diversity; but nevertheless, there is still doubt. My objectives of conducting this research is to completely gain a better understanding of the issue and to identify the solutions that colored models have been using to fight for their dreams and rights.

In order to start finding and selecting sources to support my thesis, I wrote down the thesis question as the core issue and develop 10 facets to help me categorize/filter the massive information into smaller but well-organized categories. These below facets are considered as the secondary issues that could be contributed greatly to the lack of diversity of modeling. They are:

  • Designers tend to prefer white faces representing their lines
  • Differences in physical body type and size between white models and black models
  • Recognition and success in modeling have been dominated by white faces since the beginning of its history
  • Issue of equality in paycheck between white models and other races
  • Brand associations and endorsements prefer using white models
  • The population of models is dominated by Caucasian
  • Alleged media/public discrimination toward black models
  • The establishment of Diversity Coalition to improve model diversity
  • Casting process, do casting directors favor white models?
  • Consumers’ insights, do mass consumers accept color models representing their favorite brands?
Basing on these facets, I will utilize the online library and subscription database of FIDM to conduct my research. On a secondary level, textbook and fashion magazines are also the sources that I will go look for facts and opinions to add extra value to my work. A complete research will consist of insightful controversial topics and objective analysis that relating to the core issue.