Fashion race Society

The times they are a-changing…slowly

Islandistas, you would recall that last season, we highlighted the fight for more diversity in runway casting, which was being led by fashion industry insider Bethann Hardison and strongly backed by the likes of Iman and uber-islandista Naomi Campbell and Jourdan Dunn.

Hardison promised then that “this is just round one” after sending a round of straight-talking letters to the various fashion councils where some of the biggest offenders were called out by name. She has kept her promise and her Diversity Coalition has been working hard in front of and behind the scenes since then, including submitting a list of best practices to Diane von Furstenberg and Steven Kolb, the president and CEO of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (though it should be noted that DvF has led by example in this respect  and her shows are always fabulous and diverse.)

Just before the start of NYFW and this fashion season, they provided an update and let the fashion industry know that they are still watching and will continue to do so. They reported:

“marked improvement on the runways and a positive response to the letters received by the major fashion councils and the designer brands they count as members.”

Encouragingly, nearly every design house which they had to call out had made improvement – some like Armani and Prada made marked improvements.

The oft lily-white Prada runway showed some of the most dramatic improvement last season with 5 models of colour on the catwalk. (photo credit:
The oft lily-white Prada runway showed some of the most dramatic improvement last season with 5 models of colour on the catwalk. (photo credit:

However, they sounded a note of caution, reminding designers that they may sometimes be ill-served by those working casting and styling for them.

It is important to say that there are design houses serviced by casting directors and stylists who are latent, as they seem comfortable with stereotypical images.

They also gave a not-too-veiled warning about something which we have observed, which is that darker skin tones tend to appear on the catwalks more for the spring/summer lines and less so for the fall/winter lines.

Although progress was made last season within certain houses, the objective is to continue this improvement across the entire industry.  We look for consistency and not because of advocacy or a season lending to darker skin.

In other words – black and brown girls look good in winter colours too! We can rock the emerald greens and ruby reds and burnt oranges with the best of them!

This season has looked pretty diverse thus far but NYFW cannot be the true test. Say what you want about the US but NYFW is usually the most diverse of the fashion weeks. London is a close second. Paris and Milan on the other hand…hm! We have spoken about Milan’s tokenism and runway racism time and time and time again so we will be very interested to see what they do this season.

By Me

island ~ ista
From Latin -ista via Portuguese -ista
one who follows a principle; an adept.

As an islandista I live, embody, exude the spirit of the Caribbean islands.

2 replies on “The times they are a-changing…slowly”

I have admired Ms. Hardison’s efforts for a long time, and was grateful to read that her diversity campaign is expanding not only to cover models but for designers as well as others in the fashion industry. Having freelanced in fashion event planning for years, I recognize the lack of diversity is not just on the runway, but in the corporate offices as well. I would love to join this effort because I know that my color has had an impact on my lack of success within the industry

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