Over the past several weeks, the conversation about racial (non-)diversity in the fashion industry has escalated. Following the controversy over Numero‘s “African Queen” editorial which featured white model Ondria Hardin looking, er, severely bronzed, Fashion Week happened and the diversity numbers were depressing: by Jezebel’s count, 82.7% of the models at New York Fashion Week were white. After all the shows wrapped, Buzzfeed found that New York was somehow more diverse than its affliates in London, Milan and Paris (according to the website’s calculations, 87.6% of the models that walked at the four major Fashion Weeks were white).
Commenting on the lack of racial diversity on the runways, some casting directors revealed complete indifference to the terms of the debate: “I don’t like to talk in terms of white, Asian, black, etc.,” said Barbara Nicoli, who casts shows for Burberry, Marchesa, Gucci and so on. “Because a model is a model and that’s it. To me, if we want to talk about diversity, it’s about the model and not the color of their skin. It’s more about the body, the face and the attitude.”
That would be a reasonable point of view in a more perfect world, but in our imperfect one, the fashion industry helps propagate a bigoted standard of beauty which excludes anyone who isn’t young, thin, white — and that will only change when the people who are employed to produce runway shows and glossy magazines make an active effort. Race is just one part of the problem, but the historical context (slavery within the U.S., colonialism abroad) and stark socioeconomic consequences of institutionalized racism make it something we need to address like, yesterday.
For casting directors who are having such trouble finding acceptable non-white models to hire for fashion jobs, we’ve pulled together a slideshow of just 23 young women of various non-Caucasian ethnicities. We’ve included a broad range of ages, experience levels and degrees of commercial viability, but this is by no means a comprehensive selection — for example, we didn’t even include top model Chanel Iman, who recently told the Sunday Times that designers will still say to her, “We already found one black girl. We don’t need you any more.” Please don’t be that person.