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CFDA Tells Its Members to “Make an Effort to Add Diversity to Your Lineup,” Cue the Applause

Zac Posen Fall 2016

Zac Posen Fall 2016; Image: Imaxtree

During fashion month, the industry’s problems with diversity, age and body acceptance parade down the runways for the world to see. These inequities span far beyond the catwalk — to ad campaigns, to magazine covers, to staffers at major fashion brands and glossies — and, of course, beyond even the industry itself. This makes it all the more important that the runways act as platforms for societal change. As model Ebonee Davis puts it, “Fashion makes people’s minds up about what is beautiful and acceptable.”

Fortunately, the U.S. fashion industry’s governing body is starting to recognize this fact. TheFashionSpot’s Fall 2016 runway diversity report revealed that models of color accounted for 31.9 percent of castings in New York, up from 28.4 percent for Spring 2016. (That number was even smaller in the two previous seasons.) Forward-thinking designers, evolving standards of beauty, media pressure and a more progressive political climate no doubt contributed to these improvements and this year, the CFDA and the Diversity Coalition are taking further steps to ensure this percentage continues to grow.

Bethann Hardison attends the 2016 CFDA Fashion Awards.

Bethann Hardison attends the 2016 CFDA Fashion Awards; Image: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

This season’s CFDA health initiative letter from Diane von Furstenberg and Steven Kolb to New York designers (a clear-cut reminder to attend to models’ well-being, DO feed them, etc.) came with a set of diversity guidelines. Written by Diversity Coalition founder Bethann Hardison four or five years ago, the bullet points provide designers with instructions on how to ensure they cast models of color in their shows, given that modeling agencies also tend to overlook the diversity issue.

In March 2016, the organization told theFashionSpot, “New York City is the most diverse city in the world and each season prior to casting, the CFDA communicates with the industry asking it to celebrate that diversity on the runway. The CFDA supports and recognizes the work of Bethann Hardison, having held an industry town hall on the topic with her last year. We see great support from our members and look at Zac Posen’s recent show as an example of a diverse runway.”

Although it is a bit bewildering that, to our knowledge, this is the first time designers like Rachel Zoe and Yigal Azrouël (side eye) have received this particular list given that Hardison wrote it many, many moons ago, the model “is happy to know that the CFDA thinks it is important to remind people,” as are we. Here’s hoping “it becomes natural to see [models of color] participating each season in a greater number than seasons past,” that similar guidelines arise in the plus-size and LGBTQA+ modeling realm and that non-recipients of the letter (i.e. designers in London, Paris and Milan, where runway diversity has made even less progress) fall in line with their colleagues across the pond.

Read the full call to affirmative action below.

  1. Encourage the industry to be inclusive of racial diversity when preparing casting of models for their company needs.
  2. Ask model agencies to includes and send models of color when casting. Do not assume agents will automatically do so. It’s good for them to hear the interest and important to see what models of color are available.
  3. Request models of color every season and not be limited to Spring/Summer collections and hesitate when it comes to Fall/Winter collections.
  4. When speaking to model agencies suggest to them to scout for more models of color encouraging a better selection.
  5. Be open-minded to models of color. Make an effort to add diversity to your lineup. It affects how we see things globally and how we are seen as an industry.
  6. Our objective is to make a shift on how the model of color is viewed so it becomes natural to see them participating each season in a greater number than seasons past.

[ via Fashionista ]