Photo: manrepeller.com (a personal favorite)
I’ve attempted to write this post four times. It’s a huge struggle for me and the main reason is quite obvious. I’m not black. I’m not brown. I’m not even close to being racially diverse. I’m white. I’m the whitest white one could possibly be. So why the hell does my opinion matter? I don’t know the struggle of being a minority, so what qualifications do I have to weigh in on the topic? The answer is little to none, but I’m still going to attempt to put my two cents in. It’s important to have tough conversations and ask embarrassing questions. Silence is acceptance of a situation, and the situation of diversity in fashion is not acceptable.
The issue of diversity can be split into two sections, first the prominence of non-white people working in the industry as models, designers, etc. and the cultural appropriation that the fashion industry is incredibly guilty of. The cultural appropriation aspect will be saved for another post, for now I’ll focus on the physical diversity.
First things first, lets get some data in here. Numbers are important. All info from thefashionspot.com. The website collected data from 373 shows from spring runways in New York, Paris, and Milan. A total of 77.6 percent of those models were white (i.e. anything other than white including black, Asian, Latina, Middle Eastern etc.). Though this is better than previous years, its still bullshit. Some brands including Erdem, Nina Ricci, and Saint Laurent only had two models of color in their show, and Comme des Garcons was entirely white.
White chick on the Erdem catwalk
For me, these big name brands are the ones that need to change their ways. They’re the ones that can afford to have billboards all over the world and to have top celebrities sitting front row in their designs. But we all know who owns these big brands… old white people. Yet again big money is the culprit. Whats new.
But in order to really solve this problem we need to go beyond just putting shades on the runway, people of influence in the industry need to represent minorities. I’m not the only on with this view. The current creative director of W Magazine, complete badass Edward Enninful believes that “Without diversity, creativity remains stagnant.”
Enninful with a cute pup
In an interview with Huffington Post, he explains that having people of color involved in the fashion industry needs to be more than just models.
“I don’t think filling a shoot or a runway with a black model is the answer. There is so much more that can be done. Education, mentorships and so many other things we can do to even the playing fields. That’s where the focus should be more than anything. We’re headed in the right direction. I’m really positive about it – I have to be.“
How do we get this color creativity at the forefront of the industry? At its roots. We need to offer the education and opportunities to minorities. But this is concept is nothing new, we need to implement it, and we need to do so by having already popular brands proudly offer fellowships and scholarships to people of color. There’s a saying along the lines of “What if the cure for cancer is trapped in the mind of person who doesn’t have access to education?” Well what if the next Coco Chanel is black and we’re all too ignorant and racist to realize it?
Let me know what you think. And I don’t mean whether or not we need more diversity in this industry, but HOW we get it.