Report: More Models of Color on NYFW Runways, Still Only 8.1 Percent of “Looks” Worn By Black Models

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September 18, 2012 ‐ By

A model in the Todd Lynn show. Image: Rex Features via AP Images

Jezebel has done an exhaustive analysis of the 143 shows and live presentations that took place during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week and found that there were more models of color walking the runways than years past. Still, the overwhelming percentage of models (79.4 percent) were white. That means that, of the 4708 “looks” shown, 3,736 were worn by white models.

Fewer than 10 percent (8.1 percent, to be precise) were black. Asian models actually came in second with 10.1 percent representation, followed by Latinas at 1.9 percent and finally, the elusive “others” were .5 percent.

“These results may be partly attributed to the season, because one trend that is apparent in our data is the preference for slightly more models of color at the spring-summer collections and slightly fewer at the fall-winter collections, which may be due to a belief on the part of casting directors that darker skin tones suit the bright colors of spring clothes better than they do fall’s more somber hues,” the site reports, based on off-the-record sources.

Still, six percent of shows had no models of color and 20 percent had three or fewer. Among the more diverse shows were Tracy Reese, Jason Wu, Ralph Lauren and Betsey Johnson.

Even before the Jezebel report, The Wall Street Journal was crowing about the diversity on the runways, using as an example Singapore-born Prabal Gurung, who gave the quote that pretty much sums up the whole issue: “Beauty is beauty.” In terms of race, he says he’s also looking to provide role models for his niece.

But ultimately, it’s about the market. That Journal story goes on to talk about the huge Chinese luxury market and how the desire to appeal to it played a role in the increased number of Asian models participating in NYFW. (If that’s something you’d like more info about, read Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster which has a stunning section about the shopping habits of this growing market.)

The top Asian model was Liu Wen, who walked in 21 shows. Cora Emmanuel topped the list for black models, walking in 17 shows. Number two on Jezebel’s list is Joan Smalls with 14 shows. She’s originally from Puerto Rico.

Overall, the fashion consumer is a diverse one, and the industry should recognize that and reflect it in its shows. With a more diverse crop of young designers coming up through the ranks, a more mixed group of models will likely be coming to the catwalk soon.

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