We all want to see more models we can relate to, a demand the fashion industry is finally starting to respond to with some of the most diverse fashion seasons in history. Though there is still a long way to go until we reach full fashion democracy, theFashionSpot’s diversity reports have charted incremental changes in race, size, age and gender identity representation on runways and the pages of fashion magazines.
But how do these shifts in industry casting standards happen? Social influencers, fashion activists, media watchdogs and consumers all play important roles in bringing more realness into the fashion world, but we often forget how instrumental modeling agencies are in determining the faces of fashion from behind the scenes. Sure, there are the odd Instagram girls plucked from obscurity, but for the most part, the models walking the catwalk at fashion week or starring in designer campaigns are there because they are represented by an agency with the connections to get them seen by casting directors.
“When we started out, we were working with very small, niche brands … it’s amazing to now be working every day with the world’s leading fashion houses, magazines and brands. It’s great how quickly the industry is diversifying!” says Lucy Greene, director of Anti-Agency, one of the small, flourishing new agencies that make diversity a priority. Rather than just getting a few token nonwhite models on the books or relegating a selection of non-sample-size bodies to an “alternative” category, these agencies are dedicating themselves to promoting models who broaden the industry’s definition of beauty on the runways, in magazine editorials and on billboards.
Even labeling them as “alternative,” “niche” or “boutique” agencies furthers the notion that inclusivity in the fashion industry is a novelty. These 12 agencies truly celebrate individuality and are working to change industry norms and stereotypical ideals; they represent diversity not as a publicity stunt or a way for designers to meet quotas, but as a more accurate representation of our world. Because, as Güerxs founder Maria Osado puts it, “Diversity is not alternative, it’s natural.”