Every season, website Jezebel.com does a remarkably thorough report on the diversity (or lack thereof) on the runway:

This year the numbers came in–and they weren’t very encouraging. The article states, “Of 4,095 turns on the runway, only 662 went to models who weren’t white. That’s barely 16%. Black models, at 323 bookings, were used the most of any single ethnic group, aside from whites. Asians were second, with 264. Latinas were a distant third, with 61 trips down the catwalk. Fourteen times during this fashion week, models of other races were used in a runway show.” The article goes on to state that the United States is 75% white, and that shows should therefore reflect true American demographics.

The issue of diversity in fashion has been a hot topic for years now, starting with Bethann Hardison’s “Absence of Color” talks back in 2008. The fact that fashion can be exclusionary, elitist, and dare I say racist is no secret. The real question is: what do we do about it?

The idea of boycotting a line that doesn’t use models of color is appealing, but unrealistic. Apparently the Max Azrias, the forces behind Hervé Leger, BCBG, and Max Azria, were some of the main perpetrators of the ‘no color’ policy.  But to think that you’ll pass up that hot BCBG frock just because the runway show didn’t feature a diverse cast seems silly. If you can do it, bravo.

I think the true solution is to simply get more people of color working behind the scenes. Casting directors clearly don’t prioritize having a multiracial cast of models, and no amount of complaining or discussion can make them change the way they conduct business.  Sure, the initial fury over the lack of color resulted in a few one offs, including the all black Italian Vogue, but if we want a systematic change, it must be done from the inside.

If the recent rise of bloggers has taught me anything, it’s that fashion will recognize hard work and talent, regardless of the package it comes in. I’m challenging all of you who want to work in fashion to take on those unpaid internships, do the best job you can, sacrifice, and start to diversify the industry yourselves.  Or be like Bethann and start your own modeling agency that recognizes true talent and makes the connections needed to make sure runways reflect reality.

What do you think?

Read the full article on this year’s runways at Jezebel.com.


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