Diverse Models on the Runway Is a Fashion Trend We Hope Will Stick

In the not-too-distant past, New York Fashion Week was all about a certain kind of model -- rail-thin, always; often white; often Eastern European; always the same. Karl Lagerfeld once said that "no one wants to see curvy women" on the catwalk, and that women who didn't fit that narrative of "editorial" were passed over and ignored. It wasn't at all inclusive to the women we see IRL -- women of color, ladies over a size six, women with (gasp!) cellulite, and badass biddies who are still werking it well into their 80s.


Even in the midst of the age of #BlackLivesMatter, this year's Oscars were rightly blasted for being so white, and so were the catwalks. Last year's annual diversity report by The Fashion Spot found that last season's shows were 75.25 percent white, meaning that only 24.75 percent of all models sashaying down the catwalks were people of color (including black, Asian, Latina, and Middle Eastern women).

But now, during the Spring/Summer 2017 shows, we're really seeing active change.

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In the wake of models like Winnie Harlow, a Top Model alum with a skin condition called vitiligo, and American Horror Story's Jamie Brewer, an actress with Down syndrome, walking in the last few seasons, designers are realizing that if their casting is diverse, the good press isn't far behind.

And, conversely, following the status quo means a stale, static brand.

And besides media reviews to consider, this year actually had diversity guidelines to follow this season, thanks to encouragement from the Council of Fashion Designers of America for designers to be "inclusive of racial diversity when preparing casting of models for their company needs." The organization also stresses keeping a lookout for warning signs of eating disorders, WWD reports

True, they're guidelines more than actual rules (or laws), but designers are taking note, none so much as Project Runway alum Christian Siriano.

The designer earned thunderous applause when plus-sized model Georgia Pratt took the runway. She was joined by five other plus-sized women in the show: Sabina Karlsson, Precious Lee, Marquita Pring, and Alessandra Garcia Lorido.

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Incidentally, this was the first time Siriano used plus-sized models in his shows, latching onto the zeitgeist of body positivity and acceptance. 

"I just thought it was super important to have women of diversity on the runway this season," he told the Hollywood Reporter after the show. "It was the right time, I thought it also made sense for the collection," which he said was inspired by "Settimio Garritano's photos of Jackie O. vacationing in Capri."

And earlier this year, he very publicly championed Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones's red carpet attire after she said she couldn't find a stylist.

But Siriano isn't the only designer pushing diversity in his shows.

Acid attack survivor Reshma Qureshi made her runway debut at Indian designer Archana Kochhar's show.

"I feel really good about walking in Fashion Week because I feel I'm not just doing this for myself," she told People. "I feel like I'm doing this for the acid attack survivors that there are and to give them confidence."

And maybe confidence is the name of the game this season. The confidence to make diverse casting decisions, the confidence to walk down that runway with pride, the confidence to be different.

New York Fashion Week has always been a lightning rod when it comes to diversity and inclusiveness, but at least this season, some designers are proving that they can change their stripes. 


Images via Splash News

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