New York, London, Paris, Milan. Capitals of fashion. And well-dressed white chicks.
Okay, fine: well-dressed white chicks on elevated sidewalks being used as human coat-hangers.
February, per usual, saw Fashion Week after Fashion Week in major cities, wrapping up with Paris last week. 968 models walked in 479 shows. 848 of the 968 were white models.
Wow. Way to turn an edgy, stylish extravaganza into an overdressed episode of The Waltons, you guys.
Even in New York, the most diverse of this utterly diversity-bereft scenario, there was an notable uptick in white models – this season featured almost 3% more white models than last season. Just as I would tell any designer advocating for fur chaps, we’re going in the wrong direction here.
This data, courtesy of style industry data analyst Kate Rushing (Style Minutes), should not only come as what scientists call “Zero Surprise-o,” it should also beg the question: can the fashion industry be “fixed” to honor women of different races and backgrounds, or is this a lost cause?
It’s 2013. Fashion show directors, editors, and modeling agencies have to try to avoid women of color to do it as thoroughly as they do, even just in the U.S. where 1/3rd of women identify as something other than Caucasian. The Asian American population was the fastest growing part of the population from 2000 to 2010, and Latinos – who make up 16% of the population and helped turn the 2012 Presidential election - are poised to become the largest ethnic group in the U.S. within 40 years. More and more people do not even identify as a single race. To ignore — or grossly under-represent — models of color (or actors of color, since models don’t dominate magazine covers anymore) isn’t just unjust. It is a woefully shortsighted business practice for any industry. Consumers who never see themselves using your product, may never buy it. Hell, they may not even covet it, which helps the fashion industry even when its marketing couture to the 1%. Buzz is brand.
So why does fashion look so lily-white, possibly marginalizing potential consumers or deflating buzz? Because no one is telling them they have to do otherwise.
Most of the high fashion industry (save Michael Kors and Ferragamo) is made up of private companies, ones not publicly traded on the stock market. The problem with that? No stockholders and shareholders, the ability to remain pretty closed-mouthed, and no one to demand better behavior when consumers get upset. No group of people with money saying, “I don’t care if you falsely assume only white people can afford your clothes. The public needs to aspire to own the art you create. Stop alienating that public, jackwagon. And by the way, I’m going to need you to come in on Saturday.”
It’s rare in this country that we a) hold fashion accounable for more than ruining our collective self-esteem, and b) ask the Money Men/Women of Wall Street to save our souls. But isn’t that what high fashion is all about – pushing the boundaries? So it’s time to push, gang. Because your so-called “fashion risks” are increasingly looking out of touch, and out of step with the ethnic and racial diversity of the times.