Fashion Week Runways Were Almost A Total Whitewash

When New York Fashion Week kicked off, we swore to monitor the diversity — or the lack of — on the runways. CFDA president Diane Von Furstenberg sent a letter to designers, model agencies and casting directors last month, encouraging them to create shows "that are truly multicultural." Well, the NY Daily News reports that despite von Furstenberg's efforts (and the numerous summits held by former model and agent Bethann Hardison), the catwalks were sorely lacking in models of color. According to the News, out of 66 shows at the in the Bryant Park tents, 18 designers had no black models. Jezebel editorial assistant Maria-Mercedes Lara, who went through each and every fashion show posted on Style.com, said that the models were overwhelmingly Caucasian-looking. She notes that von Furstenberg's runway "had the most models of color, but then again she did send the letter. Although Peter Som was quoted in The Wall Street Journal as saying 'I do not want an all-white cast,' his show featured a mere 3 models of color out of 18." A breakdown of the models, some examples of "diverse" shows and quotes from industry insiders (gathered by our own Jennifer Gerson), after the jump.

Keegan Singh, stylist:

Every show I've been styling this season has had all ethnicities represented. I work with a designer to help them achieve an overall modern look. To get a modern look, you need to represent a diverse group of people. You can't seem modern if you're only showing how one group of people look.
Mara Hoffman, designer:
I just like the look of having a diverse group of girls. I shouldn't say this, but I actually lean towards darker girls versus all those washed-out pale girls. I just don't look how all those pale, blonde girls look. I totally shouldn't say that! But, I don't know if there's anything the industry as a whole can do about diversity. As a designer, it's all about what your vision is of who your woman is. How do we make a standard for who you imagine your customer to be?
Frank Tell, designer:
You make clothes for anyone who would happen to like you taste: That's what fashion is. And guess what? That's not all white women. Not just white women like clothes — I don't know why the industry hasn't realized that yet.
Araks Yeramyan, designer:
I don't cast models for who they are, but for how they fit a certain image I am trying to create. The image I have of who my customer is...I'm always thoughtful about making sure there's a broad range of girls in the show — it's nice to have a range of looks. But really, I don't think the problem is with us. We are not not casting models of different races. The problem us there aren't enough working ethnic models...There aren't enough minority girls to go around, so they're only walking in a few shows. That's just how it is.
Really Ms. Yeramyan? Tell that to model Jourdan Dunn!

Of 103 runway shows, there were 2,278 chances to feature a model on the runway. Of these, women of color (meaning black, Asian or noticeably non-white Hispanic) were used 298 times. An Asian model was used 124 times, a black model was used 112 times, and a Hispanic model was used 62 times.

Fashion Week Runways Were Almost A Total Whitewash

In other words, the runways were 88% white or European. (According to the census, the U.S. is 73.9% white; that's a non-white population of almost 30%. New York City is 37% non-Hispanic white; 28% black; 27% Hispanic of any race and 10% Asian. )

Of the women of color, the majority were Asian.

Fashion Week Runways Were Almost A Total Whitewash

41% Asian; 38% black; 21% Latina.

Fashion Week Runways Were Almost A Total Whitewash

Black models were used a mere 5% of the time.

Because we counted instances of black models and not the models themselves, this number does not mean that 5% of the models were black. Chanel Iman, Jourdan Dunn, Atong and Samira walked in multiple shows.

Here are examples of castings for a few of the top shows:

Erin Fetherston
Chanel Iman, black
Daul Kim, Asian
Han Jin, Asian
Hye Park, Asian
Total models of color: 4
Total white models: 23
Total models: 27

DKNY
Jourdan Dunn, black
Daniela Borges, Brazilian*
Total models of color: 2
Total white models: 21
Total number of models: 23

Diane Von Furstenberg
Liya Kebede, black
Samira, black
Du Juan, Asian
Atong, black
Maria, Latina
Joan Smalls, black
Georgie, black
Lee, Asian
Alek Wek, black
Emma Pei, Asian
Camila Finn, Brazilian*
Bruna Tenorio, Brazilian*
Total models of color: 12
Total white models: 31
Total number of models: 43

Calvin Klein
Liya Kebede, black
Total models of color: 1
Total white models: 20
Total number of models: 21

Donna Karan
Chanel Iman, black
Total models of color: 1
Total white models: 22
Total number of models: 23

Jill Stuart
Total models of color: 0
Total white models: 20
Total number of models: 20

Jovovich-Hawk
Total models of color: 0
Total white models: 3
Total models: 3

Luca Luca
Atong, black
Total models of color: 1
Total white models: 19
Total models: 20

Tracy Reese
Sasha Gaye-Hunt, black
Dahlia, black
Hollis Wakeema, black
Sonny, Asian
Mo Wandan, Asian
Lily, black
Britnee Nicol, black
Cecilia Mendez, Argentine*
Total models of color: 8
Total white: 15
Total: 23

Zac Posen
Du Juan, Asian
Liya Kebede, black
Jourdan Dunn, black
Chanel Iman, black
Han Jin, Asian
Bruna Tenorio, Brazilian*
Total models of color: 6
Total white: 40
Total: 46

According to the Daily News, Michelle Smith, the designer behind Milly, blamed the modeling agencies for the lack of black models. "They're not giving us any people to choose from," she said. Funny how Zac Posen, Diane von Furstenberg and Tracy Reese didn't seem to have a problem!

Jourdan Dunn, who is British, is gearing up for London Fashion Week, and, reports This Is London, she's worried about the lack of diversity on those runways as well, saying: "London's not a white city so why should our catwalks be so white? I go to castings and see several black and Asian girls, then I get to the show and look around and there's just me and maybe one other coloured face. They just don't get picked."

*Clearly, many Brazilian and Argentine models are of European heritage; we tried to include the ones who offer a different look than the pale, Eastern-European model dominating the scene right now, like dark-eyed, dark haired Bruna, who is of indigenous Brazilian descent.

Fashion Week Runways Lacked Minorities [NY Daily News] 'Why Are Our Catwalks So White?' [This Is London]

Earlier: In The Wake Of The Summits...
Modeling Matriarch Continues To Demand Diversity On The Runways