Despite being a universal artistic medium with a worldwide audience, fashion has been criticized time and time again for lacking diversity. Big names in modeling, like Tyra Banks and Naomi Campbell, have been outspoken about the ongoing issue: a lack of models, from high fashion runways to Vogue campaigns, whose appearances stray too far from tall, thin and white.
Younger models have voiced their concerns as well. The “E!” reality show “Model Squad” garnered attention this week for Victoria’s Secret model Devon Windsor’s comments about the subject. She related her fellow models’, Shanina Shaik and Ping Hue, experiences of racism and colorism in the fashion industry with her own experience of dying her hair.
“You know how hard it is to be blonde?” Windsor says. “I have to get a highlight every month. Do you know how expensive that is?”
However, while some conversations about the need for diversity clearly don’t reach their intended audiences, this season’s New York Fashion Week proves that some have.
Every model who walked for designer Marco Marco’s Collection 7 underwear show identifies as transgender. Laverne Cox, the transgender actress and spokeswoman, who started the #TransIsBeautiful hashtag, was in attendance and posted a video to her Instagram, calling the runway show “another fulfillment of the empowerment of trans beauty this hashtag is meant to celebrate and engender.”
Rihanna, a jack of all trades who made the seamless transition from music to makeup to fashion in recent years, has made inclusivity the main objective in her businesses.
Fenty Beauty’s foundation range was lauded as a necessary breath of fresh air in the cosmetics world, in which the norm is a very limited shade range for people of color. Bringing this idea to her fashion line as well, Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty lingerie show featured plus-sized models, models of color and two pregnant models (one of whom went into labor during the show).
The significance of the Marco Marco and Savage X Fenty shows showcasing underwear and lingerie lines, respectively, can not be ignored. While Eurocentric features and tall, lean body types have historically been hailed as standards for beauty and sexuality on the runways, the sexualities of models who don’t fit outdated industry standards are now being displayed on a larger stage.
Chromat took their dedication to diversity a step further. While debuting clothing on models of color, plus-sized models and models with physical disabilities, Chromat drew additional attention to the lack of diversity in fashion with the theme of their collection.
Chromat’s website describes the “Saturation collection” as inspired by the desire to “reclaim the experience of hiding under a giant T-shirt at a pool party,when you’re too embarrassed to be seen in your swim) and make it a garment to wear proudly.”
Models wore wet t-shirts printed with the phrase “sample size,” a reference to designers using sample sizes to maintain an industry standard. These sizes, usually ranging from US 0 to 4, perpetuate the norm of the tall, thin supermodel.
Chromat’s decision to draw attention to this with their own clothing is a big step forward for questioning the lack of diversity in the industry.