The fashion industry has long been dominated by Caucasian models. From the covers of magazines, to runway shows, to clothes designers and fashion editors, it is a rare occasion that these roles will not be occupied by a white person. With a move towards more diversity in society in general, the fashion industry has taken some notice, but not much action. Why has the fashion industry refused to encourage diversity?
White models have always dominated the fashion industry, but with an outcry for more diverse models there has been some slight headway made. A survey conducted in 2015 discovered that 84.7% of models in spring fashion print campaigns were white. The following year the same survey was conducted finding that white models had a 78.2% share of fashion advertising during the spring period. This is followed by 8.3% black models, 4% Asian models and 3.8% Hispanic models. Viewing these two surveys together it is clear that the fashion industry is making some effort into having more diversity in the models they select, but only slightly. Over 78% of models selected being Caucasian is a huge majority and is heavily disproportionate to how racially diverse the countries these advertisements are being shown in are.
The above is a clear example of the lack of diversity in the fashion industry today.
One reason speculated for the lack of diversity in the fashion industry is money. With white people traditionally being higher income earners the dominance of Caucasian models has been affiliated with the notion that the majority of the clothing will be bought by Caucasian women. The idea that money is the reason for a lack of diversity is reinforced by the increase of Asian models in recent years, which coincides with China’s rise to financial prominence.
Another idea being presented for the lack of diversity in models is because of a lack of diversity in the fashion industry as a whole. With a vast majority of designers, photographers, editors and so on being white.
A lot of the reason the fashion industry mainly hires white models is based upon old ideas about what sells fashion and what the fashion industry is, and it’s in “the rethinking of old ideas”(English 2011, 131) that will allow the fashion industry to grow, evolve and ultimately become more diverse.
Whatever the reason for the fashion industry significantly favouring Caucasian models, it is clear that a change is not only wanted but needed. This is clear to many who cannot understand why there has not been a more profound push towards diversity. Whether a change hasn’t occurred because of the fashion industry being mainly white, or it hasn’t happened because of concerns about profits, or maybe it’s just racism, it is clear a change must be made, hopefully sooner rather than later.
English, Bonnie. 2011. Japanese Fashion Designers: The work and influence of Issey Miyake, Yohji Yamamoto and Rei Kawakubo. London: Bloomsbury Academic.
The Guardian “Survey finds that 78% of models in fashion adverts are white”. 2016. Accessed October 3. https://www.theguardian.com/fashion/2016/may/10/survey-finds-that-78-of-models-in-fashion-adverts-are-white
Bustle “80 Percent Of Models From Fall 2015 Shows Were White, & Fashion Still Has A Diversity Problem” 2016. Accessed October 3. https://www.bustle.com/articles/71191-80-percent-of-models-from-fall-2015-shows-were-white-fashion-still-has-a-diversity