Fashion + Diversity

Fashion shows finally changing their game to meet diversity?

How Victoria’s Secret fashion show has adapted to inclusivity after years without

The first ever Victoria Secret fashion show took place in 1995 when diversity wasn’t a factor they looked for when casting their models. Only years down the line did we start seeing more mixed ethnicities than ever before. In 2018 Kelsey Merritt made history as the first Filipino woman to walk in the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. In this show Victoria’s Secret also made their runway more diverse than ever before by including Asians, Hispanics, African Americans, and Caucasians. Though they included different background and ethnicity in their catwalks and photoshoots, all the models seem to have an identical body figure.

VS will not change their aesthetic because it is simply ‘politically correct’ or to keep others happy. However, it is still disappointing that they cannot use their huge platform to promote all kinds of body positivity. It comes across offensive to the LGBT+ community that Ed Razek will not accept transgender model’s due to it ruining the ‘fantasy’ of the show.

Winnie Harlow marks a milestone

In 2018 Winnie Harlow became the first model with Vitiligo (a condition that causes patches of pigmentation loss in the skin) to walk in the show which provided the brand with a massive positivity lift. She made it her mission to represent people with skin conditions in the media. Before walking in the show, the 24-year-old Canadian model told Vogue she wanted to promote body positivity on the runway.

“Representation is so important, and I want to [stand for] all women, every single woman.” she told Vogue. Harlow wanted to shatter pre-existing beauty standards and promote body confidence on the Victoria’s Secret runway. “Why is there a stigma around being different when we’re all different?”

Vogue 2018

Improvements yet to be made … still

Although Victoria Secret have recently accepted different race models into the show, a few years too late many would say. Ed Razek, the brand’s chief marketing officer, gave a controversial interview to vogue stating that plus-size and transgender models do not align with the “fantasy” Victoria’s Secret is trying to conjure. Widely criticised Ed later apologised for his remarks and said that they would cast transgender models for the show. However, this is yet to be implemented so they seem to not widely accept all people into the show.

It’s disappointing to see that the most popular fashion show in the world is yet to include aspects of diversity. Yes, they have made a start with the likes of Winnie and other race models but we are in 2020, surely they should do more?

What is the future of the fashion show?

After years of complacency, the fashion industry has faced a positive storm of political consciousness, consumer activism and social-media penetration. Putting immense pressure on brands to show they’re stepping up in their efforts to operate with more inclusivity than they ever have before. The rapid rise of social media and a cultural landscape shift has changed the game massively. Due to these brands serving such a globalised market they are eager to cater to such a diverse customer base.

According to data compiled by The Fashion Spot. The proportion of ad campaigns featuring models of colour rose from 15% in 2015 to 35% in spring 2019. Similarly, catwalks in London, New York, Paris and Milan have seen older, plus-size, transgender or non-binary models are also frequently appearing on fashion week runways. Which is a massive shift towards a more diverse fashion world.

Starting to see change

The fall 2019 fashion week was the most racially diverse in the history of fashion shows. Nine out of ten of the most booked models that season were those women of colour. It has also been suggested that after the majority of shows at the New York fashion week concluded with 50% or more of models of colour. That it’s emphatically the first time the industry seemed to understand diversity as a concept, rather than a buzzword.

We did see failures to keep up progress in representing transgender, non-binary, and plus-sized models that had been made months prior. However, Gypsy Sport evidentially succeeded in this area with its casting of Jari Jones, whom is both transgender and plus-size. Zendaya targeted diversity with ageism in collaboration with Tommy Hilfiger casting exclusively models of colour, ranging from 18-70 years old. 

It is obvious that fashion shows still have a way to go in adapting to diversity and moving away from that historical ‘catwalk look’. As times have changed inclusivity is becoming a much bigger deal in accepting everyone for who they are. They are slowly taking steps in the right direction; some more than others but they are starting to realise that this is something the audience wants and will be beneficial all round.

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