Does Fashion Have A New Look? Diversity Takes The Spotlight

January 31, 2014  |  

Do a few ads featuring African-American models placed in a few magazine mean the diversity issue has been resolved?  According to an article on, perhaps.

The site lists the latest achievements: Rihanna is the new face of Balmain’s spring 2014 campaign; Riccardo Tisci used two chocolate-hued women (singer Erykah Badu and runway model Riley) to wear his designs for Givenchy; and Miuccia Prada used Oscar nominee Lupita Nyong’o in its Miu Miu advertisements. Add to this: Actress Kerry Washington graced the December cover of Lucky, Zoe Saldana will be on February’s; Puerto Rican model Joan Smalls was on Elle‘s January cover and in a nine-page spread; and in Vogue‘s January issue, the magazine teamed up model/actress Liya Kebede with Imaan Hammam.

“I don’t think it’s happenstance,” Rakia Reynolds, a Philadelphia-based industry insider and owner of PR firm Skai Blue Media told the website. “The industry has to service the people who are supporting it. And it’s been pointed out time and time again that that wasn’t happening . . . . Everyone was so behind.”

Blacks in the industry complain designers should always consider black models not just for one-shot shoots or shows. Designers such as Philipp Plein say they hire black models to make a statement. “The German designer, who is 35, featured only black models in his spring 2014 show in Milan because, he said, he wanted to move people out of their comfort zones,” reports

For others like Balmain’s 27-year-old Olivier Rousteing, it’s normal to use black models. He is of mixed race and a fan of Rihanna’s. So she was a natural choice.

But don’t celebrate just yet, says fashion industry veteran Bethann Hardison, who has been proactive in trying to move fashion forward on the diversity scale. She launched the Diversity Coalition campaign and Balance Diversity website last fall along with iconic black models Naomi Campbell and Iman. She acknowledges  there have been steps forward but says much more needs to be done.

“The New York shows were featuring three, four, even five models of color, compared to just one or zero the season before. London also made slight improvements, as did Paris,” she told Modelina. “However, the most surprising improvements were in Milan… There was a noticeable shift in energy last season, and I think people suddenly felt out of their comfort zone, which is a good thing.”

She added that the runway successes have spilled over into other areas of the fashion world. “Last season’s Balance Diversity campaign seemed to have had a positive effect on the other areas of the industry. In advertising, several models of color earned major campaigns…,” she says. “Models taking over for celebrities is unheard truly of today, and certainly no small feat!”

But, still, warns Hardison the situation remains a wait-and-see. Do you think we’ve turned a corner?

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