Delusional Max Azria Believes He's The King Of Diversity In Fashion

Max Azria's shows tend to have a few defining features: a flirty aesthetic, a neutral palette of fabrics, and — for the past umpteen seasons — an almost all-white cast of models. Yesterday, I asked him why that is.

Since the Spring 2000 season, Azria has never booked more than three models of color in any single show — and his are big shows, often comprising more than 40 outfits. In fact, for a seven-season stretch in the middle of the decade, Azria hired an all-white cast for every single show he mounted. Since then, the diversity of Azria's casting — and the diversity of the modeling industry in general — has hardly improved. Although the problem is certainly not limited to Azria — Calvin Klein and Prada are among those brands who seem to struggle to bring themselves to book models who aren't white — Azria is notable because he is a commercial designer with vast impact on the marketplace. After this past February's fashion week, which was even less diverse overall than previous seasons, I noted:

One of the worst offenders was Max Azria. At his three high-profile New York fashion week shows, BCBG Max Azria, Max Azria, and Hervé Leger by Max Azria — each attended by virtually every important fashion editor, and worked by one of fashion's most exclusive casts — diversity was practically non-existent. BCBG had one black model, Shena Moulton, and one Asian, Shu Pei Qin, out of a 29-look lineup. Hervé Leger had only the same two girls of color, in a 32-look show. For his eponymous line, Azria showed 36 looks, and used just one model who wasn't white: Shu Pei.

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This season, Max Azria booked, for BCBG Max Azria, only one non-white model. The Max Azria show had two Asian models and one black model. Hervé Leger had an all-white cast but for one black model and one Asian model. So yesterday, as soon as the Hervé show was over, I talked to Azria about it. Turns out I've got it all wrong; he casts based on trends and he simply has no idea ahead of time what kind of a "look" will be "in."

Funny that it seems being a white person is always in style.

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He doesn't seem to even know what Jenna means when she says "diversity", because he explains that his company operates all over the world, so it is very "diverse". He equates diversity with having stores in Hong Kong and using materials from India.

But then, how far away is this from the rest of the industry? Editorials featuring non-white models are often the "exotic" shoots. And the industry is so proud of the way it cribs from different cultures (often without context or any sense of history). Fashion designers and magazine editors seem happy to consider themselves worldly and open-minded because they are well-traveled (to rich foreign capitals) and their companies have Chinese outposts. No wonder cries for diversity fall on deaf ears. They literally have no idea what we're talking about.