The definition of beauty varies, especially in the über critical fashion industry. A recent debate with fashion designers not using enough black or Asian models in the recent Fashion Weeks has sparked controversy.
Models, Naomi Campbell and Iman, as well as modelling agent, Bethann Hardison, are calling for models to be judged on their talent, rather than their skin colour. Forming the Diversity Coalition, their open letter to the governing bodies of fashion condemning a list of well-known designers for discrimination, seems to have had an effect.
Image from http://forwardtimesonline.com
The Diversity Coalition was created in order to highlight racial prejudices in the fashion culture. Although the group aren’t calling the designers themselves racist, they still feel that the designers and system are ultimately responsible.
With famed black model, Jordan Dunn in agreement with the campaign to get more black models on the runway, she also quite rightly points out that “London’s not a white city, so why should out catwalks be white?”
At the recent New York Fashion Week, as little as 6 per cent of models were black, 13 per cent Asian and 13 shows featured no coloured models at all.
Despite this, there has been a significant increase in coloured models being used since the open letter was published before the fashion season. Thus this highlights the effective impact of campaigns such as this and designers taking notice in them.
Overall, the percentage of white models showcasing 4637 looks for the Spring/Summer 2014 catwalks this year decreased from 83 per cent to 80 per cent, a small but significant step in equality on the runway.
People may begin to question the longevity of this campaign, if this trend will eventually dissolve into the heavily saturated white fashion industry. However, Hardison holds faith in more diverse runways for the future. “It’s always come and go, come and go. What I hope is that it will come, and stay.”
The debate of discrimination opens up a stream of issues, including size, age and weight in the modelling industry, with more campaigns for plus size models to be featured.
If the fashion industry can take steps towards ending white dominated catwalks, as figures have shown, then perhaps there is a glimmer of hope for the whole culture to become more balanced.
Designers take note, black and Asian models are no longer taking no for an answer.
By Rhiannon Pulling