Balenciaga AW ’16
The fashion industry as a whole isn’t widely respected for its diversity, or for speaking out about our current sociopolitical climate. In recent years, despite outcries from designers like DKNY’s Maxwell Osborne, and pressure from the public to diversify runways and campaigns, brands like Balenciaga have continued to ignorantly send white girl after white girl down the runway.
Even Kanye West, who prides himself on shaking up traditional fashion by featuring models of color, has moved into problematic territory this season. In his Yeezy season 4 casting call, the rapper turned fashion designer called for “multiracial women only,” excluding black women entirely from his presentation.
“Kanye’s ‘MultiRacial Only’ casting call is the official confession I’ve been waiting for ever since that day, many years ago, when I realized being black & looking black isn’t desirable to the masses,” wrote New York rapper Junglepussy on her Facebook page.
These traditions send a very loud message to the public: women of color don’t naturally belong in fashion, and despite brands like Gypsy Sport breaking down barriers by diversifying their catwalk, the fashion industry largely remains exclusive, and white-washed.
Now, with NYFW upon us this week, CFDA president Diane Von Furstenberg and Steven Kolb have sent a letter to all CFDA designers encouraging “the industry to be inclusive of racial diversity when preparing casting of models for their company needs.” The health initiative letter includes “racial diversity pointers” and shares new guidelines that require all designers to “add diversity to [their] lineups” by including models of color in all their castings, requesting models of color every season and asking agencies to scout more models of color.
“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,” they wrote.
Though, the fact that “racial diversity pointers” are even necessary is beyond unsettling, it’s great to see as large a powerhouse like the CFDA taking the first of some very necessary steps toward a brighter future. That being said, let’s hope designers actually listen—everyone is tired of seeing the same type of girl walking down every runway, anyway.