Since 2008 the women's website Jezebel.com has tracked how racially diverse the models featured at New York Fashion Week are. While whites make up 64 percent of the United States, a staggering 79.4 percent of the models featured at September's fashion week in the Big Apple this year were white. The kicker is that this figure means that designers featured a more diverse group of models this time around than they have in previous years. That's because in 2008, 87 percent of the models at New York Fashion Week were white. This fall, 10.1 percent of the models featured were Asian, 8.1 percent were black and 1.9 percent were non-white Latinas, Jezebel.com reports.
Given how diverse the United States is in comparison, these numbers shouldn't exactly be applauded, but the fact that designers are featuring a more multicultural set of models does mark an improvement--albeit a slight one. Unfortunately not all designers jumped on the multicultural bandwagon. Eight fashion collections--including Calvin Klein, Brood and Elizabeth & James, launched by Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen--featured no models of color at all. So, why does the matter? Singaporean fashion designer Prabal Gurung explained it best:
"For me being a minority myself, I have always believed personally and professionally that there's beauty in every race," he said. "I have a 6-year-old niece, and in a few years she will be aware of all this stuff and I want to make sure there are enough role models for her. Beauty is beauty."
Featuring models of color is not only about providing role models for minority children but also about challenging stereotypes. Fashion is largely about fantasy and luxury, and some brands evidently don't believe that black, Asian and Latina models can represent their collections because they associate people of color with, say, poverty or crime or suffering. And sadly some fashion industry insiders still don't think minorities exemplify "classic" beauty. Considering that people of color consume fashion just like everyone else, it's important to know which fashion brands don't deem them fit as symbols of their designs.