The new editor of The New York Times’ T magazine had to respond to a discussion that began after the latest issue of the fashion supplement reached readers this weekend. People remarked that the issue was noticeably monochromatic, with lots and lots (and lots) of white models. One reader, Susan Clark of Annandale, VA, said very specifically, “I assume the ads cannot be controlled, but I saw only one African-American and one Asian-American among the thousands of models in the ads. The T doesn’t look like my neighborhood or America.” OK!
Editor Deborah Needleman, recently of The Wall Street Journal responded. “It was something I noticed and regretted as we were putting the issue together. We are a global magazine and so would like the content , subjects and geography of stories to reflect that,” she began.
“A majority of fashion models are still unfortunately mostly white, but it is our aim to celebrate quality and beauty in all its diverse forms.”
To that end, Jezebel took a look at the level of diversity on the New York Fashion Week catwalks and it was notably lacking. According to numbers the site gathered, Style.com covered 151 shows with 4,479 looks. Of those, 3,706 — or 82.7 percent — were worn by white models. Asian models wore 9.1 percent of the looks (409), black models wore 270 looks, or six percent. And non-white Latina models wore two percent of the looks, or 90 of them.
J.Crew, Badgley Mischka, Diane von Furstenberg, Rebecca Taylor, and Zac Posen were among the designers who did feature models of color, while Calvin Klein and Juicy Couture were among those that had no models of color. Overall, there was less diversity on the runways this year than last.
The site, which has been tracking these numbers for five years, says that, within the industry, this preference for white models drives down pay for those who do get jobs, and makes it particularly difficult for the models of color who are vying for the few spots available. But there are larger implications also.
“And outside the industry — because the models who rise to the top of the heap doing runway are the models who go on to do the magazine covers, the cosmetics campaigns, the luxury brand ads, the billboards, and the TV commercials that girls all over the world can’t help but grow up consuming — it promotes the idea that beauty means having white skin,” the site says.
The fashion industry, known for boundless diversity in its creativity, must recognize the diversity in humans and celebrate it along with their designs.