As you could undoubtedly see in our Black Model roundup from the Spring 2014 show season, many designers took heed to the Diversity Coalition’s request, and used more than a couple black women to display their wares. But while most chose to be the change we all wish to see in the world, a small handful didn’t. We identified three big names who didn’t budge with diversity, and 3 who blew us away with their dedication.
Take a quick look at who did what and perhaps where you should be spending your dollars on your next shopping trip.
1. Ann Demeulemeester
There’s always plenty of black on the Ann Demeulemeester runway. Sadly, this doesn’t apply to the models. The label was clearly unbothered by the Diversity Coalition listing them as one of their Fashion Week offenders. Indeed, not even the highly-publicized epistle could get them to break their storied, 12-year tradition of using no black models in their women’s shows.
We scoured their collections on Style.com, and were disheartened to see season after season brown girls were left out. It appears they haven’t used a black female model since 2001, when Alek Wek stomped down their catwalk.
2. Isabel Marant
This one was a shocker for us. Beyoncé helped put her iconic wedge sneaker on the map, and with fans like Halle Berry, Chanel Iman, Alicia Keys, and more, it surprised us to see Marant’s latest with nary a brown face in sight.
Especially with her upcoming H&M collaboration, a store patronized by many women of color, she might have at least felt to be more inclusive this season. Marant has used black models in the past, but it was definitely disappointing to see that she had opted out for Spring 2014.
3. Max Mara
Though we can fortunately report that Max Mara‘s runways aren’t always so whitewashed, this season definitely was. The show was almost completely homogenous– Soo Joo Park provided the only bit of diversity as the lone Asian model on the catwalk.
However, Max Mara has in practice shown a pattern of embracing diversity: they’ve got a plus-sized label Marina Rinaldi, and they used plus-sized and black bloggers as part of their campaign. Better luck next time!
1. Philipp Plein
Philipp Plein caused a stir in Milan when he sent an all-black cast down the runway for his Spring 2014 show. Milan is notorious for being one of Fashion Month’s least diverse weeks, so, the fact that Plein chose an all-black cast was certainly refreshing, to say the very least. Plein told Fashionista, “My message is about breaking down barriers and breaking the rules.”
“Doing the unexpected and shaking people from their complacence, forcing people to face the future where old prejudices have no place. For example, the public expects to see pallid girls in high heels walking my show and I give them a fleet of black beauties in flats!” While we lament the fact that using a majority of black models in a show is seen as “breaking the rules,” Plein’s show was a welcome change of pace.
2. Rick Owens
How could we leave out Rick Owens? The designer opted for a powerful, energetic display for the Spring 2014 season, tapping the talents of American step teams Step Momentum, Washington Divas, Soul Steppers, and the Zetas. The girls took the runway stomping, clapping, and mean-mugging, in what was a spectacular display of beauty and strength, and a time-honored African-American tradition.
Not only did he use an almost all-black cast, but the women in the show weren’t what you would expect to see on any runway: from short and curvy to tall and thick, Owens’s show was a bastion of body diversity, going firmly against the popular belief in fashion that clothes look best when presented on tall, waif-like women.
Ah, now all of you can continue carrying your Phantom bags without any nagging guilty feelings! Likely feeling pressure from the Diversity Coalition for completely neglecting to put any models of color at all on her runway, Céline wins this Fashion Month’s most improved award, now that they added black models to their lineup. We literally could not believe our eyes when we saw not one, but four brown faces on their runway after having used no black models for several years.
This is the first time in Phoebe Philo’s tenure at the label that she’s used any black models at all to showcase her main season offerings. The last time a black model was showcased on the Céline runway, was Spring 2009, for former creative director Ivana Omazic last turn at the helm of the brand. Perhaps Iman’s comment that she doesn’t buy Céline products got to Phoebe Philo!
Again, we want to point out that it looks like a lot of designers took the Diversity Coalition’s letter to heart, and have diversified their casts. If you take a look at our post of 7 black models to watch, you’ll see a wealth of houses who opted to use brown faces.
Our research is far from complete, but these are just three who stood out to us in each category. If you can find or think of more, let us know in the comments!