Now that Fashion Month Fall 2020 has wrapped up and the data has been calculated, it’s time to face facts. Diversity on the runways is starting to swing the other way. For years we were happy to report that racial inclusivity was trending upward season after season, but sadly, now the trend seems to be backtracking. Is it a fluke? Or maybe it has more to do with the fact that New York Fashion Week was scaled back for Fall 2020?
Regardless, this slide needs to be stopped.
While the Spring 2020 season was the most racially diverse one ever, Fall 2020 saw a slight drop. From a high of 41.5 percent models of color (out of 7,390 model castings at 215 major shows) to 40.6 percent (out of 6,879 castings across 194 shows). That’s a little under 1 percent difference. While we’re never happy with a decrease no matter how slight, this is not as devastating as it sounds. To give you some perspective, Fall 2020 still ranks as the second most racially diverse season since we started keeping track with the Spring 2015 season.
The biggest drop came in New York, where racial diversity dipped from 46.8 percent a season ago to 43.6 percent. Milan and Paris’ drops were less dramatic (Milan went from 36.8 percent to 36.6 percent; Paris went from 39.9 percent to 39.3 percent). One bright spot was London Fashion Week. Racial diversity across the pond actually soared from 41 percent in Spring 2020 to 43.8 percent for Fall 2020. A little victory we know, but it’s still worth celebrating.
Another Fall 2020 highlight? The model who racked up the most runway miles by appearing in 38 shows was a woman of color, American model Achenrin Madit who’s of South Sudanese descent. But overall, only four women of color, including Madit, landed in the top 10.
U.K. native Lara Mullen came in second with 37 shows. Followed by South Korean superstar Sora Choi, Hannah Motler from the U.K., Denmark’s own Josefine Lynderup and Chinese model Tang He, all with 34 shows under their belts. Netherlands native Felice Noordhoff, German model Rachel Marx and French beauty Cyrielle Lalande walked 33 shows apiece. Rounding out the list was Chinese stunner Yilan Hua who walked in 32 shows.
Gender, size and age diversity were once again missing from the top models list.
Plus-size castings plunged from a high of 86 last season to just 46 for Fall 2020. For those of you without calculators handy, that’s a significant 0.49 percentage point difference. As usual, New York was the source of most of the plus-size castings with 27 appearances. London was next with 10 castings. While Paris only had seven, Milan wins the award for least body diversity of the season with a measly pair of plus-size castings.
In the Big Apple, Christian Siriano hired the most non-standard-size models: Marquita Pring, Precious Lee, Sabina Karlsson, Solange van Doorn, Seynabou Cissé, Candice Huffine, Chloé Véro and Ingrid Medeiros. Several other brands enlisted two plus-size models: Tadashi Shoji (Lorena Duran, Michelle Olson), Dennis Basso (Malia Greiner, Angela Riihiluoma), Area (Tehya Elam, Betsy Teske) and Collina Strada (Theresa Chromati, Alva Claire). Marc Jacobs, Oscar de la Renta, Eckhaus Latta, Nicole Miller, Christopher John Rogers, Prabal Gurung, LaQuan Smith, Veronica Beard, Michael Kors Collection and Rag & Bone were each responsible for one plus-size casting. Alexis Ruby, Tess McMillan, Paloma Elsesser, Karlsson, Elam, McMillan, Claire, Huffine, Jill Kortleve, Kortleve, respectively.
McMillan walked the most runways in London, representing Simone Rocha and Tommy Hilfiger. Lee, Parris Goebel, Ruby and Ariish Wol also walked in Tommy Hilfiger’s show. Molly Goddard picked Kortleve, Roland Mouret cast Karmi Pinning and 16Arlington enlisted Natalie Nootenboom.
Moving on to Milan, who would’ve thought it would be Fendi providing both of the city’s two castings? Kortleve and Elsesser hit the runway for the Italian brand. In Paris, Kortleve added four more shows to her runway résumé (Mugler, Valentino, Alexander McQueen and Chanel). Elsesser joined Kortleve for Alexander McQueen and also walked in Lanvin’s runway show. Wol also walked for Mugler.
The good news? Just like New York, a majority of the plus-size castings in London, Milan and Paris went to women of color.
Becca Thorpe, former model and vice president of Muse Management and founder of Muse’s Curve division, sees positive signs despite the decline in representation.
“As part of the push for more inclusive runways, Fall 2020 was a very interesting season. While the numbers in theory were down, there were some major moments that we had not seen before like Jill Kortleve walking in Chanel and Valentino. I believe that European fashion houses are really opening up to more diversity in the market and that the United States will continue to push the boundaries on age, race and size.”
Gender diversity also dropped during the Fall 2020 season. In Spring 2020, 46 transgender and non-binary models were cast. Compare that to only 21 castings this season.
While Spring 2020 saw 36 appearances or 1.55 percent across 19 shows, for Fall 2020 there were only 10 transgender/non-binary castings or just 0.52 percent across eight shows in New York. That’s a little over 1 percent difference. Non-binary model Noah Carlos walked for Self-Portrait, Prabal Gurung and Coach 1941. Transgender model Dara Allen represented Dion Lee and Prabal Gurung. Massima Desire, also transgender, hit the runway for Dion Lee and Eckhaus Latta. Phillipe Blond, who identifies as non-binary, naturally popped up at The Blonds, while transgender model Ariel Nicholson and Richie Moo appeared at Marc Jacobs and Christopher John Rogers, respectively.
When it came to London, non-binary model Richie Shazam and transgender model Maxim Magnus walked for Ashish. Gigi Gorgeous and Nikita Dragun, both transgender, represented Philipp Plein. And in Paris, there were seven castings. Carlos hit the runways of Vivienne Westwood, Mugler and Rick Owens. Magnus was back in action at Ralph & Russo. Transgender models Venus Liuzzo and Dustin Muchuvitz walked for Koché, while Jake Junkins popped up at Ann Demeulemeester.
Racial diversity was also well represented since Allen, Carlos, Shazam, Dragun and Liuzzo are all models of color.
Models 50 and over actually got a boost this season. Whereas there were 39 castings for Spring 2020, that number went up to 44 for Fall 2020. Not much of a jump, but hey, it’s something.
While age representation in New York saw a decline from 15 models in Spring 2020 to only 10 for Fall 2020, both Paris and Milan saw an increase. Paris went from 14 to 22; Milan from three to five. Only London remained unchanged with seven aged model castings.
In New York, Prabal Gurung cast Anh Duong, Collina Strada booked Kathleen McCain Engman, Christopher John Rogers chose Coco Mitchell, The Blonds cast Gloria Trevi, Dennis Basso selected Lisa Rinna. Sylke Golding, the only 50-and-over model to rack up more than one appearance, walked for Nicole Miller and Eckhaus Latta (Eckhaus Latta cast one additional aged model). The other castings came courtesy of Priscavera and Area.
Yasmin Le Bon led the pack in London by walking for Preen by Thornton Bregazzi and Tommy Hilfiger. Cecilia Chancellor also walked for Preen, while both Mouchette Bell and Stefanie Lange represented Emilia Wickstead. And Laine Mullally hit the runway for Richard Malone. Over in Milan, Maye Musk and Ellen von Unwerth represented Philipp Plein, Britta Dion popped up at Arthur Arbesser and Pat Cleveland walked for Laura Biagiotti.
But it was Paris that really embraced age diversity this season. The only downside is that it was only across five shows. Balenciaga led the charge by hiring Minttu Vesala, Neda Brady, Nina Pohl, Birgitt Doss, Francesca Pia, Karen Boros, Lena Mozer, Manu Burghart, Marisa Chaos and Stephanie Gudra. Lemaire picked Sonia Itchi, Mino Sassy, Amalia Vairelli and Kristina de Coninck. Doss and de Coninck were at Marine Serre. Yolanda Hadid joined her daughters at Off-White and legendary supermodel Helena Christensen walked for Balmain.
While the total is good, the numbers just don’t add up when it comes to racial diversity as most 50-and-over models cast were white.
MOST AND LEAST DIVERSE SHOWS
There was a pretty dramatic difference between the most and least diverse shows this season. Claudia Li in New York and Halpern in London each had 83 percent models of color. Two other New York shows, Area and Christopher John Rogers, also impressed with 78 percent models of color and 76 percent models of color, respectively. Rounding out the most diverse list were the Paris-based shows from Ralph & Russo (76 percent models of color), Mugler (73 percent models of color) and Yeezy (67 percent models of color). Iceberg over in Milan also made the cut with 67 percent models of color.
On the flip side, Son Jung Wan from New York managed to hang on to its least diverse show of the season title thanks to only having 6 percent models of color. Vivienne Hu, also out of the Big Apple, had only 13 percent models of color. The rest of the least diverse list was made up of shows from Milan and Paris. Junya Watanabe (15 percent models of color), Celine (19 percent models of color), Cividini (19 percent models of color), Philosophy di Lorenzo Serafini (20 percent models of color), Antonio Marras (20 percent models of color), Marco de Vincenzo (20 percent models of color), Chanel (21 percent models of color) and Anrealage (21 percent models of color).
As always, it’s disappointing to see a drop in diversity, no matter how slight. For Fall 2020, the dramatic dip in both size and gender diversity on the runways is most distressing, especially since both categories surged in previous seasons. Bottom line: We’re hoping the numbers all go back up for Spring 2021.
Additional reporting by Mark E.
Only women and non-binary models are included in this data. Models of color are categorized as those who are nonwhite or of mixed backgrounds. Spring 2020 collections that showed during the Fall 2020 season are included in this report.