Often credited as being the ultimate stage for fashion, New York Fashion Week has also been widely criticized for its lack of diversity. This year, NYFW made great strides in fixing that misconception.
During last season’s NYFW, the Fashion Spot reported that only 31.5 percent of models making runway appearances were non-white, and only nine shows included plus-size models. However, New York Fashion Week fall 2017 was also the first time there has been at least one model of color in every show.
This season has continued on that path. In an email interview, fashion blogger Olivia Sweitzer said the attempt to deflate those criticisms was obvious.
“In all the shows there were models of all different ethnicities and nationalities,” Sweitzer says. “I noticed that sizes of the models ranged all over the map. There definitely was not one specific type of model that was being highlighted, everyone was truly different, which was really refreshing.”
Designer Christian Siriano, known for his diverse runway, has always advocated for inclusivity when it comes to fashion and believes New York is ahead of the game.
“New York is doing so well [with diversity], and we have a lot of young brands who are super-boisterous,” Siriano told the New York Post. “Europe isn’t as much on the cusp of what we’re doing.”
According to critics, diversity on the runway has been a long-standing issue. However, now with pressure from the media and health initiatives, the Council of Fashion Designers of America, the fashion industry’s governing body is making deliberate efforts to fix these issues. Last year, in their biannual health initiative letter, the CFDA included a set of diversity guidelines written by Diversity Coalition founder Bethann Hardison.
Sweitzer believes this inclusion is essential to creating an environment where fashion can do what it ultimately sets out to do—inspire people.
“It is very important to stand for something that is inclusive and accepting. So many people around the world are inspired by the creativity of the fashion industry, and that extends much farther than just the one small category of people that the industry was known to highlight in the past,” Sweitzer says. “I am so happy to see a progression towards diversity because it makes for a much more positive and relatable environment.”
Another supporter of inclusivity is Chromat’s Becca McCharen-Tran. Known for casting models of different ethnicities and sizes, McCharen-Tran still managed to make progressive statements with her spring 2018 show. It featured several plus-sized models, including two donning “anti-chafing” thigh bands by Bandelettes, combating the ever-present beauty standard of the “thigh gap.”
While strides have been made to create a more inclusive environment, there is still a long way to go for it to be equal. In an interview with the Fashion Spot, founder of The Model Alliance Sara Ziff says she doesn’t think full inclusivity will happen anytime soon.
“[We won’t see change] without clear financial incentives or penalties for designers to prioritize health and be inclusive across categories,” Ziff tells the online publication. “Like a pyramid, there are a small group of gatekeepers at the top who decide which models will represent the beauty ideal and these models reflect these individuals’ tastes and preferences — and, of course, their biases.”
This ideology is rooted in a habit of inconsideration within the fashion industry and between fashion designers. However, Sweitzer says the ideology of beauty is changing.
“In the past, I believe the initial designs were made with less consideration of fitting a body, but instead models were cast to fit into these sample designs,” the blogger says. “I think the concept was harmless in theory but definitely could have been a contribution to the diversity issue in fashion.”
“It can be fair to say that this certain image that was trying to be upheld was taken too far and it is now coming back down to the center. I think the shift has gone more towards inner beauty and capturing the idea of what a strong, healthy, and happy individual would look like,” she says.
Some of the most talked about shows when it comes to diversity this season include Christian Siriano spring 2018, Chromat spring 2018, Tracy Reese spring 2018, Michael Costello spring/summer 2018 Bridal/Couture and Addition Elle holiday 2017.