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13/12/2016

When will fashion become truly inclusive?

 

‘Diversity’ was a real buzzword in fashion this year. There were transgender models on the catwalk, a plus-size face on the cover of Vogue and the most racially diverse runway season in history.

But has anything really changed in the industry famed for capitalising on people’s differences and dropping them as soon as the next big thing comes along?

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In a recent panel orchestrated by The Business of Fashion on the topic of diversity and inclusion, model Joan Smalls used a term that sums up the whole problem with the current focus on diversity: “Sometimes, people jump on bandwagons and do things because it’s cool for the season. The next season, they forget the message they were trying to send because it was a ‘fad’.”

And she’s right. Brands and publications have a tendency to jump on the diversity bandwagon and showcase the ‘flavour of the month’ – whether that’s models who don’t fit into a standard sample size or ones who sit outside of the traditional girl next door definition of beauty. The issue is it only lasts for one season with the designers and editors choosing to go back to what they’re comfortable with (i.e. young, white and thin) a few months later.

When it comes to fashion shows, it’s common knowledge that things such as ‘racial quotas’ exist. This means that you may spot a token black or Asian model; someone who doesn’t fit into the all-white show but is there simply to ‘prove’ that the designer is supporting diversity.

Now, we live in an extremely multicultural world. Showing this on a catwalk is surely the modern view of beauty. Again, Joan Smalls made a good point surrounding this, saying: “When I see a runway with all the same models that are just clones, I’m like: “Is that your beauty? Is that your world?” It’s very one-sided and bland. You should be reflective of the world you live in.”

One major brand that does attempt to represent the greater world is also a controversial one. Victoria’s Secret and the lingerie-filled show watched by millions is seen by many as an archaic demonstration of femininity. Yes, the VS show may only feature models of a certain size (and wouldn’t we all love to see Ashley Graham in some wings?) but it was one of the most ethnically diverse displays around with 17 non-white models walking. That’s almost half of the 52 women that were cast; a much more promising statistic than the ones coming from fashion month.

The Fashion Spot‘s biannual diversity report revealed that the recent SS17 season was the most diverse fashion month in history. Sounds encouraging but on closer inspection, the statistics are still sadly depressing. Just over 25% of the models appearing in London, Milan, Paris and New York were non-white. Although designers such as Ashish and Kanye West’s Yeezy used mainly models of colour (75% and 97% respectively), there were still some shows that disappointingly featured an entirely white cast.

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