It is no secret that models of color are at a clear disadvantage when it comes to booking jobs in the white-washed fashion industry.
Many models and industry professionals have expressed displeasure with the blatantly discriminatory ways of the fashion world. Now, it appears there is proof of bias.
Jezebel has been monitoring the number of spots relegated to women of color at New York’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, and the numbers show a clear decline in the trajectory of hiring practices with regard to black women.
Jezebel monitored the website Style.com which covers fashion week, and counted the number of spots in each of the 122 fall, 2010 shows held in New York. They reportedly counted how many of those spots went to models of color. According to Jezebel,
The numbers were not encouraging. Of 4,095 turns on the runway, only 662 went to models who weren’t white. That’s barely 16%. Black models, at 323 bookings, were used the most of any single ethnic group, aside from whites. Asians were second, with 264. Latinas were a distant third, with 61 trips down the catwalk. Fourteen times during this fashion week, models of other races were used in a runway show.
It’s important to note that we were counting instances of a model being used in a show — not individual models. (A lot fewer than 4,095 models did the fashion week rounds.) Models who are popular with designers and casting directors were booked for multiple shows, and many shows send each model out in two or more looks from the collection. We counted not each model but each runway look — i.e., the total number of opportunities for women of color to be included on American fashion’s biggest platform, and in the fashion week that kicks off the world’s ready-to-wear collections, which continue right now in London.
These statistics show a clear decline in work opportunities since last year. What’s particularly surprising is the fact that several of the most well-known fashion houses like Calvin Klein and DKNY were among the most discriminatory.
Most of the shows that took place used some models of color — just three designers, A Détacher, Alice + Olivia (full disclosure: an old client of mine), and Preen, chose exclusively white casts — but many used very few. Well over 60% of the shows, in fact, used casts that were 85% white, or more.
Nineteen shows used only one non-white model. Those designers included taste-makers like Calvin Klein, blockbuster commercial labels like Diesel, and the Olsens’ well-regarded line, The Row.
Eighteen designers booked just two models of color. That list included both Donna Karan and DKNY, Jill Stuart, Rag & Bone, and Nicole Miller.
It is certainly frustrating to see the pattern that the fashion industry is following, though the real question is how can we change things? It is already a known fact that black women struggle to find solid footing in the racially selective fashion industry. Now, we need to dedicate efforts to the task of remedying the problem. What are your suggestions?
In celebration of the few black women that do get recognition in the fashion world, check out these galleries!