Slowly, and steadily the fashion industry is becoming more diverse, but there is still a long way to go. If I asked you to name any models you could, you would probably give me names like Kate Moss, Kendall Jenner, and Cara Delevingne. What do all these women have in common? They’re all tall, skinny white women. If I asked you to name any models who don’t fit this description, how many could you name?
In 2018, a report said that out of 7,608 models 32.5% were people of colour. Within the past decade, the industry has taken baby steps to be more inclusive. But we are still at the point where it is a big deal whenever high fashion brands include a model who doesn’t look like other high fashion models. Should it still be like this or should the industry already be miles ahead of where it is now? Let’s talk about the baby steps that have been taken recently. Do you think it is enough, or do you think more could be done?
Some models are paving the way for a diverse future of fashion
In case you haven’t heard already, Winnie Harlow is a Jamaican-Canadian model with a skin condition called vitiligo. This is where pale patches of skin develop over time due to lack of melanin. Harlow was discovered on Instagram in 2014 by Tyra Banks who invited her to be on the show America’s Next Top Model. She didn’t win, but that hasn’t stopped her career. Since then she has gone on to work with some major names in the industry like Vogue, and Beyoncé. In 2018 she was the first model with vitiligo to walk on the Victoria’s Secret’s runway. When asked about the opportunity she said that it was a huge honour for her, and that it was a big step in the right direction for VS. ‘We need to work toward diversity, not for the sake of it, but to make it the norm.’
Another model who is changing high fashion modelling as we know it is an 18-year-old girl called Ellie Goldstein. At birth, Goldstein was diagnosed with Down’s syndrome but she has not let that stop her. In her career she has worked with Gucci on one of their beauty campaigns, and in an interview with Vogue has talked about how there needs to be more representation of people with disabilities in the modelling industry.
Why is diversity and representation so important within fashion?
Seeing people similar to yourself in the magazines, and on the runways can affect your self-worth, and how you see yourself. We have all heard stories or have had experiences of when we were younger. When we compared ourselves to the models we see represented in the media. If we didn’t look the same or have similar characteristics, we deemed ourselves not as pretty, or not good enough, or other negative thoughts. However, the more we see models who have the same skin tone as yourself or a similar weight to yourself, the less these feelings start to affect us, and the more we feel good about ourselves.
Some brands have started to include more diverse range of models in their seasonal runways. Fendi is famous for including a wide range of skin tones for their models, and their make-up range. By doing this, they have started the conversation about the lack of skin tones other brands include in their make-up ranges. This already changed the beauty world as it’s known. In their Fall/Winter 2020 runway, Fendi included two plus size models out of 50 which was a first for any brand showcasing their seasonal pieces. This has shown to many that Fendi is way ahead of others within the industry. This will hopefully be the start of the inclusion of many different body types for the runway.
Are these baby steps good enough or are we still miles behind where we need to be?
When you take a walk through a busy street or visit a new country, none of the people around you look the same. So why is it that the fashion industry have a certain look for most of their models? A lot of cultures enjoy celebrating diversity, and I believe it should be the same within fashion. Even though there are steps being taken towards a diverse runway, there is definitely more that brands could be doing. The best way to speed things up is to celebrate these steps, and praise brands for being as diverse. This will encourage more of this behaviour and encourage others to do the same.
Having a more diverse fashion industry would also normalise fashion of cultures that are different to your own. It would also lead to a more accepting industry. After all, the root of fashion is about self-expression, and the more accepted people feel, the more creative, beautiful looks we would see.