Fashion's Diversity Problem Remarkably Still A Problem

"I'd like to say that these bigger girls are going to be around in a few seasons, but I'm not sure that's true. The more extreme the trend, the more quickly it passes," says casting director Natalie Joos.

"That's been my experience, anyway."

Joos, who was Vogue photographer Craig McDean's studio manager before she started casting full-time, and has worked putting together runway casts for brands including Yigal Azrouël, Rebecca Taylor, Adam Lippes, and the late, lamented Erin Wasson collection for RVCA. She also casts for Canadian designer Mark Fast, who has for the past two seasons hired some plus-size models, and mixed them in with the straight-size girls. (Chanel has followed suit, and put Crystal Renn in its most recent Resort show.) A company's runway show is a key demonstration of its identity and culture: it is literally how a brand wants to present itself to the world.

Natalie Joos gets that. And she told Style.com, "I honestly, sincerely believe in diversity on the runway. All kinds of diversity — color, size, what have you." Her record certainly supports that; Yigal Azrouël's last runway show gave nine of its 32 outfits to models of color, or 28%, in a season where overall diversity was just 16%. But, says Joos, "Honestly, there's only so much I can do. I'm not going to name any names, but it's like, casting different ethnicities, I've had clients who have worried that the cast I propose is too diverse, they worry about it looking contrived. I've suggested, they've refused." And it's disappointing that Joos, of all people, still referred to size diversity as just another fashion "trend."

Casting "plus-size" models — who are generally smaller than "plus-size" women, anyway — or a select number of models of color hardly represents an "extreme" move. While the change such decisions represent shouldn't be downplayed — all too recently, one-third of the New York shows had all-white casts, and plenty of labels have so far ignored the push towards greater body diversity — the whole point of casting like Fast's is that a wider array of beauty should be visible on the runway (and in the magazines) as a given, not as a trend. If diversity is a trend, then it can be ignored until it blows over; in an industry which actually cast fewer models of color last season than before, that's clearly fashion's natural tendency. We'll be watching this season's shows very carefully.

Behind the Scenesters: Natalie Joos [Style]

Earlier:
Fewer Models Of Color Work New York's Fashion Runways