In July 2008, Vogue Italia’s Editor-in-Chief Franca Sozzani unleashed the infamous Black Issue, a special edition celebrating black women in fashion, arts and entertainment. It became the best-selling issue in the magazine’s history, and had to be reprinted twice. The edition was heralded as barrier-breaking, edgy and progressive by many; a gimmicky show of tokenism by some. The pull-out cover, shot by Steven Meisel, was a hot topic in particular, featuring close-ups of Naomi Campbell, Jourdan Dunn, Liya Kebede and Sessilee Lopez. What wasn’t as widely discussed were the jarring 13 pages of ads featuring white models that followed the cover from brands like Christian Dior, Gucci and Prada.
Six years later, ad campaigns are still overwhelmingly whitewashed.
In an in-depth look at 730 ad campaigns from Spring 2014 and Fall 2014 collectively, we found a startling lack of diversity. Out of 1,105 model appearances* in womenswear ads, 85.97 percent were white. The second largest group represented was Asian models at a dismal 5.25 percent; a strong luxury presence in Asian markets likely played a hand. **Additionally, black models came in at 4.98 percent and Latina models held 1.54 percent. It’s important to note that out of the total, 2.26 percent of models were categorized as “Other,” or in this case, did not define themselves under one racial profile.
The top 10 most booked models in 2014 ad campaigns were 90 percent white. Topping the list was 23-year-old Andreea Diaconu, who secured a whopping 13 ads, from Gucci and Chloe to the Band of Rebels shoot with David Beckham for Belstaff Spring 2014. Danish beauty Josephine Skriver came in second place with 12 ads, while Lindsey Wixson and Daria Werbowy tied for third place with 11 ads each. The rest of the top 10 all scored 10 ads respectively. This set includes Karmen Pedaru, Julia Nobis, Irina Shayk, Gisele Bündchen, Edie Campbell and Chinese superstar Liu Wen, who is the only nonwhite model in the pack — a role she is all too familiar with. (In 2009, Liu became the first Chinese model to walk the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show; she was also the first Asian spokesmodel for Estée Lauder. She ranked number five on Forbes‘ highest paid model list of 2013.)
MASS MARKET VERSUS LUXURY
Surprisingly, mass market brands with wide customer bases were more likely to favor diversity — some better than others. For H&M, for instance, models of color appeared six times within four ad campaigns: H&M Spring 2014, H&M New Icons, H&M Fall 2014 and H&M New Season. This list included Sui He, Jourdan Dunn, Liya Kebede, Liu Wen (for H&M and H&M New Season) and Maria Borges. DKNY also tapped Jourdan Dunn (along with Cara Delevingne and Eliza Cummings) for spring as well as Rita Ora and Soo Joo Park (along with Dorith Mous and Eliza Cummings) for fall. Jourdan Dunn appeared in Express’ spring ad, too, but the rest of the cast for spring and fall was disappointingly all white. Ditto for Banana Republic, which hired Tao Okamoto for fall and six white models who fanned out between both seasons. Ann Taylor’s fall campaign featured Herieth Paul, Jourdan Dunn and Li Xiao Xing in a larger cast setting.
The luxury market didn’t fare as well. Alexander McQueen, Isabel Marant, Bottega Veneta, Tod’s, Chloe, Lanvin and Saint Laurent are just some of the luxury brands that didn’t make much of an effort to diversify 2014 campaigns. A handful of high-end brands, however, stood out from their contemporaries. Missoni and Fendi booked Joan Smalls, Monique Péan and Louis Vuitton both inked Liya Kebede for spring and fall respectively and Akris signed Anais Mali solo for spring. Prada also had a stellar spring campaign featuring a large cast, including Malaika Firth and Cindy Bruna. On the celebrity front, Rihanna covered Balmain Spring 2014 solo, while Lupita Nyong’o modeled for Miu Miu Spring 2014 (along with Bella Heathcote, Elizabeth Olsen and Elle Fanning).
Sadly, the 2014 campaign report mirrors our 2015 runway report, published in October, which showed that the runways this year in each major fashion capital — Milan, London, New York and Paris — were on average 83 percent white. The good news? Mass brands casting models of color, even in a group setting, dispels any notion that consumers won’t buy if campaigns have diverse casts featured in them. The luxury market is finally starting to wake up, and with more bookings for Jourdan Dunn, Joan Smalls, Malaika Firth, Liu Wen and others, we can only hope it will become mainstream to cast nonwhite models. Some campaigns, like DKNY and Marc by Marc Jacobs, utilized “real people” and offered the chance to see a better mix of castings. Change is coming, albeit slowly.
With additional reporting by Elena Drogaytseva.
- Diversity Report: Fashion Magazine Covers Still Pretty White in 2014
- Fashion Week Spring 2015 Diversity Report: Still a Lot of Work Left to Do
*The term model in this case also includes celebrities featured in campaigns.
**Models of color were categorized as those who appear to be nonwhite or of mixed backgrounds. Models included in the Latin category are classified as nonwhite Latins that do not appear to be strongly Afro-Latin.