Racial Diversity in the Fashion Industry

Calvin-Klein-Collection-AW-2013In bustle.com it states that “The fashion industry as a whole is notoriously bad at encouraging diversity and a truly representative runway.” Fashion is a global multi-billion dollar business that often silently discriminates or represents a lack of diversity. As usual when I browse Model agencies to look at my favourite models, I can never get over the lack of diversity in some of the most well known agencies. As I scroll down I may be lucky enough to see one or two Black or Asian models. Fortunately, there is more awareness in recent years to have more diversity. The only question is when this change will be more apparent. The word minority makes it sound less important. We musn’t have this idealism that Asian models should be Westernised. Considering the Asian market in fashion is massive, it makes me surprised of the lack of racial diversity.

In desiblitz.com  it talks about how: The exotic and diverse expressions of Asian models should make them exceptional and not a reason for them to be apart from the high fashion industry; an industry that claims to be creative, diverse and revolutionary, and as Amy Odell puts it in The Cut: “It’s ironic — aren’t great innovators in the fashion industry supposed to take risks and be different and not do what everyone else is doing?” It often comes down to the fashion designers creative vision of who would wear their clothes. The look, attitude, physical features, movement and body. However it interests me, considering China alone has 1.3 billion people, there is bound to be much more diversity for every market, right?

The issue as stated in businessoffashion.com  “many in the industry simply do not recognise this for what it actually is: racism. Remember, this is the same industry that dressed Karlie Kloss in a traditional native-American headdress to model lingerie in the Victoria’s Secret show and paints white models black. Discrimination based on the colour of a model’s skin is not uncommon.” The problem here is that when designers set a vision of their clothing that is only suited to a very specific type of beauty, it narrows the ability for the global world of fashion to access it, even if they admire the design of the clothing. Fashion needs to relate and include everyone. Unfortunately, fashion is a business, no matter how much of a creative expression for individualism it is. Therefore, designers are particular about their target market and who wears their clothing.

A quote that hit home for me was “Black culture is often the inspiration,” said fashion editor Shiona Turini, “but black people aren’t part of the conversation.” from manrepeller.com This holds true for Asian culture and a sense of glamorising the oriental aesthetic. In turn this conversation of racial diversity is difficult when also considering the ethnicity of white models from different countries. If we can normalise racial diversity on the runway, magazines and billboards, then there won’t be so much emphasis and stigma on the lack of racial diversity and the negative stereotypes of a white-dominated fashion world.

Finale at Calvin Klein, February 2013 | Source: Calvin Klein

6 thoughts on “Racial Diversity in the Fashion Industry

  1. This is so true and furthermore this year I hope to see more change in the industry more focus on designers and models of colour. This is a problem that should not be ignored or overlooked it shocks me that racial issues have extended so far top models such as Ajak Deng had to retire (then to return) because the discrimination was too much! In 2016 issues like this are highly unsatisfactory and shameful.

    1. I really hope to see more change in the industry too – especially in embracing all race, sizes and looks. I just saw the news regarding that, and it is disappointing that not everyone receives the same opportunities, but let’s hope to see that change!

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