It’s safe to say that catwalks are among fashion lovers’ favorite things. However, the catwalk has long been an exclusive club that only selective people were a part of. When searching for articles covering the subject of catwalk diversity, it is not enough to read headlines like “10 times catwalks were inclusive”. In our society, people come in different skin colors, ages, weights, and genders, yet catwalks are known for very marginalized sizing requirements, and the proof is evident during showtime. Major fashion houses have been scrutinized for years for lack of inclusivity in modeling and shows, yet little seems to change in the grand scheme of things.
In the fall/winter 2020 shows there were certainly models of all shapes, religions, and colors. One of the most notable is Paloma Elsesser, Fendi’s first plus-size model. She also made appearances in other runway shows during the reveals of the F/W ‘20 collections. While race is wildly important another issue is that of age representation. It’s a well-known fact that many agents sign young girls because they tick boxes that older models perhaps would not, possessing skin and body types that have no signs of aging. This beauty standard has been dead for a while, but catwalks are still promoting it with the F/W ‘20 season of shows only hosting a handful of models over the age of 50.
In times of darkness, like the brutal murder of George Floyd, there is often a breakthrough. Companies began to reevaluate their representation of all races in their staffing. Buzz words like inclusivity and diversity were surging tremendously. A big question for me: Would this correlate to the fashion runways? After tragedy struck in May, the next runway releases would be for S/S 2021. I think I speak for everyone when I say that we were all hopeful that after a year full of tragedy, change would be around the corner in terms of catwalk diversity. Milan fashion week was a huge beacon of light, adding several black-owned designers to the line up in collaboration with the “We Are Made in Italy” project. The designers chosen for this project were mentored by Stella McCartney and Edward Buchanan.
Designers like Gucci and Prada are dedicated to change and are backing up their claims by implementing projects full of inclusivity and diversity, while some brands claim that those types of things are all in the works. Italian designers have taken their lack of inclusivity seriously especially within the past few months, acknowledging that NYFW has gained the reputation for bearing the most inclusivity on its runways. It was evident that more body types, ages, and races were included in the most recent fashion weeks that occurred in September and early October to release the S/S ‘21 collections, and this not just seen at NYFW but throughout the S/S ‘21 collection reveals throughout the world.
Brands like Etro started their brand with diversity integrated into its key values, including globetrotting designs that represent and celebrate different cultural backgrounds. Etro also supported the LGBTQ+ community by giving those individuals a voice to speak out and let their thoughts be heard. Etro hasn’t treated diversity as an afterthought, but instead brought diversity to the forefront of its brand. While Etro is certainly not the first brand to bring refreshing and inclusive views to the table, it is trailblazing the path for others alongside other fashion brands like Fendi, who is widening its catwalk variety, and Gucci and Versace who are committing to change.
Catwalk diversity is vital to our future, and it can no longer be an afterthought in a world where our differences make us individual and unique. A catwalk full of mainly young, thin, and relatively pale women cannot possibly represent the entire human population, which is rich with body types of all shapes and sizes. With COVID-19 hot in the press, revealing many flaws in the fashion industry, and the death of George Floyd receiving major news coverage, it’s essential that old ways are left in the past and new inclusive standards are put in place to stay everywhere in the world, including catwalks.
Now I want to hear from you— Leave a comment below with your thoughts on the current representation of society seen on catwalks!