The conversation in the fashion world about diversity has been amped up over the past few seasons, but unfortunately, designers haven't really broadened their minds about what faces to cast — there hasn't been a drastic difference on the runways.
New York Fashion Week for Fall/Winter 2014 might have brought fresh styles, but the faces weren't anything new. After crunching the numbers on 148 shows, we can report that of 4,621 looks, only 985 were worn by models of color. That means that of all the models who walked this past week, 78.69% of them were white. While that number is slightly smaller than last season, it still hovers around 80 percent, which has been roughly the percentage of looks worn by white models for the past six seasons.
Eagle-eyed statisticians will notice that not all the numbers in our calculations add up to a full 100 percent. That's because there are a few shows for which it's difficult to classify models according to their race, because their names can't be found. For those, we've tried to still count the total number of obvious models of color without breaking them down into racial categories, which does end up creating a slight discrepancy in the numbers.
In general, our strategy is to calculate models by counting looks in the New York shows and presentations that are covered by Style.com, menswear excluded. We break those looks down into Black, Asian, Latina and Other (Middle Eastern would fall under "Other"). According to our criteria, non-European Latina models are considered Latina. Does this system work for calculating the race of every model? Definitely not. Take, for instance, model Sherita Dehon, who is Black and Filipino and walked her first runway show in the fall for Givenchy in Paris. Her mixed race status "complicates" tallying and labeling women according to these categories. But her popularity indicates that in our lifetimes there could be more models like her. Eventually, that would mean it'd be virtually impossible to even break models into these categories.
For now, there aren't enough women like Dehon for that to be the case. As usual, some models of color had really good seasons. Black models like Grace Mahary and Herieth Paul walked in 17 and 13 shows, respectively, while relatively new face Leila Nda walked eight. Cindy Bruna, who closed Cushnie et Ochs, walked in nine shows. Asian model Tian Yi was in 13 shows, and Xiao Wen Ju, Sung Hee Kim and Chen Lin were all in 14.
From left to right: Lakshmi Menon at Creatures of the Wind; Atuai Deng at Desigual; Soo Joo Park at Rebecca Minkoff
Interestingly, there were few Latina models seen in as many shows as some Black and Asian models walked in. An example of this is Isabella Melo: last season she was in 17 shows. This season she didn't make it to double digits.
Closing and opening looks at Anna Sui
One thing that does seem to have changed for the better is that it has become less common to see designers using entirely white casts. Only a few did so this year, like Tocca. Calvin Klein, which had five models of color last season, regressed a bit, featuring just two Black models this season. The best way to prove to these designers that they're making the wrong call with their casting is to point them in the direction of peers who consistently hire diverse casts. Designers like Diane von Furstenberg, Desigual, Bibhu Mohapatra, Ohne Titel, Pamella Roland, Naeem Khan, Zac Posen and Tracy Reese. Or Anna Sui and Creatures of the Wind — models of color opened and closed both of those shows. Those fashion houses set a good example; others ought to follow.
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Research conducted by Isha Aran, Rebecca Rose, Mark Shrayber and Phoenix Tso
Images via Getty