Diversity in Fashion is widely considered to be a ‘token subject’ - the Glossier 'Body Hero' campaign is changing that, by making diverse women a fundamental part of their campaigns and business; but diversity has a long way to go, and a lot more action must be taken. Diversity is discussed and called important, but that importance has not yet been translated into widespread action. The Fashion industry is still dominated by white culture and the white ideal.
Although this is slowly changing. Locally, at New Zealand Fashion Week there were hints of cultural diversity; Stolen Girlfriends Club, Katherine Victoria, Wynn Hamlyn and Federation were some of the shows that featured women of colour and different body types.
This show of cultural diversity, although small, will only grow. However, I think the danger for the Fashion Industry is the failure it has to see diversity as something which is multifaceted. Cultural Diversity is only one form of diversity; and although Fashion is advancing to include Cultural Diversity in its ranks, there are many other forms of diversity, that in the Fashion show context, are, mostly, missed.
When you look at an item on the runway and you think about who it is designed for what is your answer? The designs of Carolina Herrera cannot just be for that of the models who walk her runway, that are tall, blonde, young and leggy.
If designers only serve one body type, one audience and one demographic as a customer then they would never get by, the customer is not one kind of person, because a demographic is made up of many different kinds of people, who happen to be similar in a few ways.
Designers clothes serve many different forms of customer, but why does the runway not reflect the diversity of their customers.
Simply this is because, customer diversity is necessary for income. Diversity on the runway is not. Runway diversity is something that designers must want to do.
The biggest question to a consumer in fashion should be; if you, your age, body, skin colour, size of the clothes, are not being reflected in the campaigns and designs of the brand then why are you investing in it? Designers and Customers are meant to have a symbiotic relationship; YSL designs a new lipstick and you get excited about it, so you buy it. Your excitement and your money is payment for the designers, who have worked tirelessly for the lipstick to be made.
The relationship between customer and designer is give and take; if someone is taking your money, you deserve to see yourself at least in part, in their designs.
Historically a consumer has felt tied to a brand in order to live up to a standard - you by the Agent Provocateur - you look like the models. This belief system is the greatest obstacle that barricades the achievement of diversity. If we stopped buying the brands that whitewashed and tried to streamline us, then they would realise the flaw that they have in their brand; as long as we keep buying, we are subconsciously supporting and elongating the lack of diversity in industry.
Brands like Lonely, Natalia Peri and Miss Crabb are examples of brands which in part exist to support this symbiotic and diverse relationship.
These are the brands we should be supporting; and on an International level, with the gorgeous Winnie Harlow walking for the second time at Marc Jacobs; we see that designers are consciously making their runways more diverse - and in turn, they are reflecting more of their customers.
The glossiest example of this is the Glossier 'Body Hero' campaign, which has succeeded in showcasing women's bodies of all kinds. Reflecting a kind of humanity that is a rare view in the fashion industry.
With Glossier leading the charge I can't wait to see what heroes are developed.
Myself, being a woman in a wheelchair; cannot wait for the day I see someone like myself on the Marc Jacobs runway. It’s coming.
Words | Grace Stratton [ you can follow Grace's work here ]
Grace Stratton is a writer, creator and speaker.