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Adam Selman SS16
Backstage at Adam Selman SS16Photography Evan Schreiber

This season’s fashion week diversity stats are in

New figures show that though New York Fashion Week’s runways were predominantly white, things are changing

This season we’ve seen a number of models take to the runway who deviate from fashion’s skinny, white, cis-gender norm. Brands such as VejasVaquera and Hood By Air have led the way, rejecting homogenity in their casting. But statistically speaking, how did SS16 fare in terms of racial diversity? A new report compiled by The Fashion Spot shows that out of New York Fashion Week’s 143 shows and 3,727 spots on the runway, 71.6 per cent of models were white and that 28.4 per cent were non-white (10.7 per cent black, 8.7 per cent Asian and 4.2 per cent Latina).

These statistics show that NYFW’s catwalks were still disproportionately Caucasian in comparison to the ethnic make-up of the city, the population of which is 44.6 per cent white. But how do these figures compare to previous seasons? For AW15 models of colour accounted for 24.4 per cent of those booked and for SS15, that figure was just 20.9 per cent. So we’ve seen an increase of around 4 per cent a season in black and minority ethnic representation at NYFW, in just one year. Translation? Things are, albeit gradually, shifting.

“Diversity innovation has begun and some in the fashion industry have woken up to the influence they can choose to have if they want to operate as enlightened practitioners,” commented Caryn Franklin former director of All Walks Beyond the Catwalk the UK fashion diversity initiative. “Let’s keep it moving. Fashion can be part of the solution when individuals within it are proactive. There are many reasons to embrace diverse ethnicity but designers could focus on BAME spending power if nothing else.”

“Diversity innovation has begun and some in the fashion industry have woken up to the influence they can choose to have if they want to operate as enlightened practitioners,” – Caryn Franklin

In NYC, it’s the underground labels who are leading the charge for change – Gypsy Sport, for example, sent a cast of racially diverse street cast models down its runway, along with a pregnant model, and an older female artist known as No-Bra. Hood By Air and Moses Gaultett Cheng are other brands who are rejecting fashion’s norms, choosing to show clothes on members of their creative communities.

Dominican Republic native and Dazed cover star Lineisy Montero had a phenomenal season, racking up 23 shows at NYFW – more than any other of her contemporaries, white or non-white. And she’s not along in her success; Mica Arganaraz, Amilna Estevão, Bhumika Arora and Dylan Xue are other models of colour dominating the catwalk this season, booking show after show.

The runways are still a long way off reflecting the diversity of not only the multicultural fashion capitals, but the world at large. But why is change taking so long? Usually when this topic is raised, a blame game quickly ensues: agents blame the stylists and casting directors, who in turn blame the clients, who blame the market.

In an article penned for The New York Times earlier this year, Vanessa Friedman points out that it’s not just models of colour who are under-represented in fashion, but designers too. She reported that out of the designers who are members of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, only 12 out of 470 are African-American.

While the stats show a clear racial disparity in fashion, the industry is increasingly understanding the importance of and demand for diversity. Let’s hope it continues to do so.