Tuesday, January 6, 2015


Re-enactment of Backstage - Louis Vuitton 2015 Runway (Source: internet)
              Fashion and modeling has been co-existing in our culture longer than the life of our ancestors. The bias of white models was engraved so deeply in the mindset of designers, casting directors and others. What we talk about is a culture, a social trend, a value and a perception of arts. As a fact, fashion designers and casting directors are the main forces that created and established the culture of fashion. Allegedly, they are blamed to be the reason behind the lack of model diversity. As reported, fashion designers are using excuses such as “you’re very strict on your collection and have a vision, it’s pretty difficult to accept someone who is far from your idea of the woman wearing your clothes” (Victoria Lin, "Race and the Runway” – Arts, The Harvard Crimson). This is how they usually say to hide their true intention of biasing Caucasian models for decades. Undeniably, our fashion industry continues showing that bias toward white models and a lack of diversity – reflecting through many angels such as modeling policies, casting process and fashion designers’/casting directors’ preferences. Yet this issue will remain the same until the Diversity Coalition can find its way to persuade the people to change and improve the casting system.

D&G 2015 Runway (Source: internet)
            Since the beginning, catwalk society has always been dominated by the “waifish aesthetic prominence.” Looking back to six years ago, 87% of models walked in runway were Caucasian. Before the revolutionary effect of black icons Iman, Naomi Campbell, Tyra Banks, the number was even worse. On a recent analytical Jezebel report, it shows almost 80% of the look (4,621 outfits) was worn by white models. There were only 985 were worn by models of color during the 148 shows in NYFW Fall/Winter 2014. According to LeeAnn - a writer from The Refinery29, she said: “New York runways were the most racially diverse — with "only" 79% of its runway models being white. For a deeply multicultural city like New York (where just under 44% of the population is white, according to a 2013 American Community Survey), these are obviously disappointing statistics” (LeeAnn, "Sadly Not Shocking: Fashion Still Bad At Diversity", The Refinery29). On a particular case, Jazebel reported Valentino had almost 96% white models walked for his show (41 girls out of 43 girls are Caucasian). The same result goes to Victoria Beckham, Haider Ackermann, The Row, Paul & Joe. Those are the shows that had the less models of color walked for them (only 4%-4.8%). These impressive numbers once again show the catwalk diversity still remaining white faces’ dominance. Strangely, it doesn’t reflect the world that is getting more transparent and diversifying among races.
Valentino 2015 Runway (Source: internet)
            From a starting point, models of all colors/origins work under model agencies and under the same modeling policy. However, despite the simple fact that every model goes through the same casting process, the key decision falls into the hands of casting directors. On “Race and the Runway” article, Victoria Lin said “Casting directors continue to dismiss and rationalize the lack of racial diversity on runways and in major brand campaigns” (Victoria Lin, "Race and the Runway” – Arts, The Harvard Crimson). Whether a model received a cast call or received an “okay”, it is up to casting directors to deliver a final call. In addition, Lin also said “The root cause of the underrepresentation of models of color ultimately appears to lie in the “race-blind” mindset behind the casting decisions that result in majority-white catwalks and advertising campaigns.”
Victoria Beckham 2015 Runway (Source: internet)
            Additionally, fashion designers still remain a total bias toward white face models. Designers are tend to not “making distinctions based on skin color” but intently “paved the way for excuses of casting directors” to refuse casting models of color in a make-sense/humanism way. It is criticized as an alternative way of saying “a dark skinned model doesn’t work with our vision” and it also allows designers to “pass over models of color in the name of aesthetics.” Furthermore, Lin wrote in her article that casting director Leila Anna shared her perception of “a show needs to make you dream, and it doesn’t necessarily need to represent reality”. It is interpreted by Lin as “a vision or dream, is one in which people of color are not present.” From this point of view, it is obvious to see that the models of color have been staying under disadvantage situation for years due to the bias of fashion designers and casting directors. Hence, this controversial bias is considered as one of the critical cause that builds the harsh reality of model diversity.
Calvin Klein 2015 Runway (Source: internet)

            On the other side of the front line, Diversity Coalition was born as the savior of models of color. With the mission to change this harsh reality, Diversity Coalition has been established a strong and provocative “fighting” strategy. As a founder and an active representative of the Diversity Coalition, Bethann Hardison, the winner of “CFDA Award” proudly adopted a new slogan: “Activism needs to remain active.” She was once the first model of color in her generation to appear on “Grand Divertissement à Versailles” with Pat Cleveland and Alva Chinn in 1973. She was also a casting director who discovered famous colored faces such as Veronica Webb, Roshumba Williams and Tyson Beckford. Back in the days when she was still working with her modeling agency, Ms Hardison said to “inclined to press the point when designers where disinclined to at least consider any but white models”. Even though many decades have passed, she continues to show her never-ending battle against “the lack of diversity on fashion’s runways”. Recently, Matthew Schneier, a writer from New York Times said “Ms Hardison has been consistently published open letters to the directors of the CFDA and analogous bodies in Lodon, Milan and Paris, naming those designers who runway shows included no or only one token model of color.” It works. The numbers of colored models walked in the season had improved (such as Céline show had four models of color compared to last season it had none). The Diversity Coalition’s goal is not to bring 50-50 in number but to “catch up a little bit”. With an endless effort, in a statistic summary during 16 NY shows received critiqued for lack of model diversity last fall - the Diversity Coalition reported a greatest improvement from Calvin Klein house, Narciso Rodriquez and The Row’s house. Each of them has 4 models of color compared to none in the previous season. Also, a document content six guidelines for racial diversity is conducted by Diversity Coalition to [hopefully] improve the racial diversity in decision-making during casting time. In a great effort, the Diversity Coalition has submitted the guidelines to Diane von Furstenberg – the president and Steven Kolb - the chief executive officer of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA). Looking on a bright side, the casting director and fashion designers will have no choice but to change their “dominant rule” to a more fair-play option once the guidelines are officially circulated as a principle document to follow.
Marc Jacob 2015 Runway (Source: internet)
            In fact, we are living in a “flat” world where everyone from different ethnicities and nations of origin works together to achieve the same goals and establishments. Although diversity continues showing its unstoppable trend in many workplaces across all nations and organizations, catwalk society refuses to change. The fashion industry still obviously shows great bias toward white models and a lack of diversity. Once again, the same question is asked: “Will the Diversity Coalition succeed its mission to bring equality of races into its realm in the next 10 years?”

Works Cited
Duggan, LeeAnn. "Sadly Not Shocking: Fashion Still Bad At Diversity." Refinery29.         Refinery29, n.d. Web. 15 Dec. 2014.
Schneier, Matthew. "Walking the Walk to Increase Diversity." The New York Times. The New     York Times, 15 Mar. 2014. Web. 24 Nov. 2014.
Dries, Kate. "New York Fashion Week Was Chock-Full of White Models Again." Jezebel.            Jezebel, n.d. Web. 15 Dec. 2014.
Lin, Victoria. "Race and the Runway." The Harvard Crimson, n.d. Web. 10 Nov. 2014
Feitelberg, Rosemary. "Progress Seen in Model Diversity." WWD. WWD, 4 Feb. 2014. Web. 24 Nov. 2014.
Wilson, Julee. "Bethann Hardison Continues Push For Racial Diversity On The Runway, Sends   New Letter." The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, n.d. Web. 15 Dec. 2014.