This past February, New York Fashion Week recorded an achievement that will hopefully sound less and less like one as the industry continues to make progress: For the first time ever, every major presentation included at least one model of color. What's more, by the time the Europe shows had finished up, it turned out that the Fall 2017 shows made up the best Fashion Month yet for models of color; the Fashion Spot's biannual report found that overall, the 241 major shows stretching from New York to London to Paris to Milan were made up of 27.9 percent models of color—a noticeable increase from the previous two seasons's 24.7 and 22.4 percents.
As it turned out, the fall 2017 print ads ended up being even more inclusive than the runways; in fact, they hit a record peak in diversity, featuring 30.4 percent models of color. And now, it turns out that that happy uptick has continued into the spring 2018 shows, at least earlier this month in New York: Though the shows are still finishing up their month-long marathon, the Fashion Spot has already managed to take stock of NYFW's runway statistics, which show that this time around, at least two models of color walked every show in New York, making for what appears to be its most diverse season in recent history.
Unfortunately, we're nowhere near the point where it's hard to do the math—the numbers have doubled since last season, with the overall percentage of nonwhite models landing at 36.9 percent—but it's a major step forward for an industry that's for the large part resistant to change in general. (Remember that time just last year when Marc Jacobs made headlines by simply announcing he'd be showing at 2 p.m. instead of taking his usual 6 p.m. slot?)
This time around, Jacobs was in fact one of the few designers whose cast of models featured a majority of women of color, which is particularly good news given that, along with Raf Simons, Jacobs is a leader of New York Fashion Week, which has been floundering lately without its usual stars like Tommy Hilfiger, Altuzarra, Rodarte, and Proenza Schouler, all of whom opted to show in Paris this year.
But this season also brought some design newcomers, too: Torrid, the plus-size retailer, staged its first fashion show, and while unfortunately it barely managed to attract the industry's attention, it definitely did contribute to this season's milestone numbers when it comes to body diversity. Overall, 90 plus-size models walked the runway—31 of whom were courtesy of Torrid, and 25 of whom were courtesy of the plus-size brand Addition Elle.
The 90 accounted for what seems like a teensy 3.46 percent of models in total, but which is still in fact a huge leap, all things considered: Only 26 plus-size models walked last season, and only 16 the season before, and only four the season before that. (So even without Torrid and Addition Elle, the 34 plus-size models who walked in shows like habitually diverse Christian Siriano and Chromat, who were this season joined by the likes of Ashley Graham and Candice Huffine at Prabal Gurung and Michael Kors, would have been a landmark.)
Hopefully, the London, Milan, and Paris shows will live up to New York's example, and hopefully they'll also show evidence of LVMH and Kering's potentially monumental charter protecting models' wellbeing, which the two luxury conglomerates (and usual rivals) announced just before the shows kicked off in New York. Many of its aims seemed too good to be true, like insisting employers provide a psychologist or therapist at the model’s disposal during their working time, but at the very least, it can't hurt in preventing more models from being trapped in a stairwell with the lights off.
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