Fashion's Diversity Problem Remarkably Still A Problem

Illustration for article titled 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, "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]

Fewer Models Of Color Work New York's Fashion Runways


LudaŽena (Slatka)

They should stay, they should stay! I realize this will make most of you want to throw a rock at me (I think, how would I react if someone said this about Muslims? And the answer is, I would roll my eyes and think: "Good for you, idiot!") but since joining Jezebel I've changed what negative views I had or larger women to a feeling of completely indifference. It's a non-issue now. I even watch Huge and think: "A weigh-in? But why? What does that have to do with anything?"

I want to see diversity in modeling, in advertising. I want to see the biggest woman you can imagine in a sexy perfume ad and the oldest woman you can imagine in a flirty make-up ad, and on and on. And not as a gimmick or a joke - just serious, with the same exact formula as would be used for a regular commercial today. That's what will make me support these companies now.

Please, these industries, give us this. It's refreshing, it's wonderful and it works. Of course it's still a ploy for money, that's fine - but don't make women feel like shit because they're not Czech teenagers. Not that there's anything wrong with that look, but it's just a fraction and we need to appeal to the whole population.

We all want the same things and we all want to be reflected in modeling and advertising. I want that so much. I think of, say, Christina Hendricks in a lingerie advertisement and that would make me want to buy it even though I wouldn't look that nice and curvy. Just... enough, already, with the very restrictive view that reflects only a small number of women. It breaks my heart to think women are beating themselves up about this. It's so stupid and meaningless.

Of course, I still think we should all take pride in ourselves and look our best. But OUR best.