New York Fashion Week just saw its most diverse season of all-time, and it’s worth celebrating. What some write off as a trivial social event serves as a marker for our progress with representation in media.
The fashion industry has a rocky history of inclusivity; critiques of lacking representation in size, race, sexuality, and age are long-held. After Marc Jacobs’ fiasco with cultural appropriation, or the story of Victoire Dauxerre who walked for brands like Celine and Prada while battling anorexia, much progress has yet to be made. Statistics provided by The Fashion Spot’s annual diversity report allow for optimism.
Whereas the Spring 2015 show saw models of color comprising 20.9 percent of runways, Spring 2018 accounted for a sixteen percent increase. As a first, every runway had at least two models of color, and though this seems minimal, last season was only the first to see at least one model of color on every runway. Larger brands like Marc Jacobs featured a lineup where over half the models were women of color, and critics are hoping it becomes a constant.
With regards to body diversity, the show featured 90 plus-sized models walking the runway, and this compares well to the mere 26 featured in the Fall 2017 show. Unsurprisingly, it was plus-size brands that provided 56 of the 90 castings, but the increase is worth acknowledging. As with racial representation, well-known designers like Michael Kors and Prabal Gurung demonstrated greater inclusivity, thus setting a standard to be followed.
Fall 2017 gave audiences only 12 transgender castings, all belonging to five well-known brands. Spring 2018 featured 31 such castings, 28 of which were transgender and 3 of which were non-binary. Furthermore, 10 of the 31 models were women of color. Chromat is hailed as the brand that consistently features the most transgendered models, while Helmut Lang continues to attract attention for casting a transgender, non-white model over the age of fifty.
Given that, Spring 2018 had the most age-inclusive runways of any previous season. Models over age fifty made ten appearances— a minimal rise from Fall 2017’s six, but a notable one nonetheless. Of the group, four were women of color, one woman was plus-size, and another was transgender. The intersectionality of representation has never before been so numerous.
The sole fault in the celebration of this diversity is just that; after 74 years of Fashion Week, we are only celebrating now. Some brands are still behind — hailing Tom Ford for 65 percent nonwhite models seems futile when The Row drops from thirteen percent nonwhite models to ten percent. Designers like Prabal Gurung are among the few that attempt to address the lacking size inclusion by the majority of the industry. Nevertheless, there is an observable growing effort being made to provide a platform on which people of any race, sexuality, or age can experience visibility.
Keep working for inclusion that no longer comes as a surprise or an innovation; Spring 2018 bodes well for the future.