The Catwalk Had A Little More Color, But White Models Still Dominated New York Fashion Week

February 20, 2014  |  

Pushing for diversity in fashion is an ongoing job. And the push by the likes of Bethann Hardison and the Diversity Coalition is having some effect–but it’s slow going.

For yet another year Jezebel has compiled its seasonal New York Fashion Week racial diversity report, which looks at how many models of color were used by each designer.

According to the Jezebel report, the number of black models jumped from 8.08 percent last season to  9.75 percent. There was, however, a decrease in the number of Asian models from 8.1 percent to 7.67 percent this season, and Latina models dropped to 2.12 percent from 3.19 percent. The site notes that it’s difficult identifying the ethnic makeup of some models, so the calculations might be off slightly.

Designer Tocca didn’t use any models of color and Calvin Klein used fewer than last year. But African-American designer Tracy Reese, Zac Posen, Diane von Furstenberg and Ohne Titel have been consistent in their use of diverse models.

According to Jezebel, 78.68 percent of the outfits were worn by white models. When looking at the 148 Fall/Winter 2014 runway shows (excluding menswear), 4,621 looks were shown and only 985 were worn by models of color.

The Diversity Coalition says more work needs to be done. And former model Beverly Johnson agrees. “There are no models of color on the runway – OK, maybe there’s one,” Johnson said during the Macy’s annual Black History Month event in San Francisco on February 5.

“The lack of acknowledgement is disrespectful,” Johnson said, “particularly when we, as African Americans, participate in the bottom line of these designers and the entire industry.”According to Johnson, the fashion industry is actually less diverse now than in 1974, the year she became the first black model to grace the cover of Vogue.

Some designers complain they can’t find black models, that the modeling agencies aren’t sending out black models. But San Francisco’s JE Model agency owner Phillip Gums tells the Gate that the agencies simply reflect  market demands. Gums, who happens to be an African-American model, admits it’s more difficult to get work for nonwhite models.

Although San Francisco modeling agencies do represent African American and Asian models, “we hate to just have them on our wall sitting there” without work, Gums says.

“Fashion reflects the society as a whole,” former Essence editor and fashion journalist Constance White points out. But she says, “Fashion can do better in terms of diversity at all different levels” including executive positions and the fashion designers themselves.

[h/t The Huffington Post]

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