Times are A-changing Partie deux?
I wanted to dedicate one of my posts on the last Fashion Week circuit. I love to scan all the collections, review the changes, find the signature-look and scrutinize everything going in the fashion world during this month. This time however, I was not so interested in writing about my favourite pieces and creative directors but rather, discuss the issue of diversity in fashion.
I mainly work in the art milieu, but I realize more and more that issues related to the art field can find their way in different conversations (mainly because they are current societal issues, but sometimes, each field stays in its bubble, not looking at what is happening elsewhere.) I was reading this ArtsHub article, and was struck by its beginning: "Diversity is the in-vogue theme for the cultural industry, becoming an exercise in ill-thought-out, quick responses to stage diversity rather than as an opportunity to re-imagine the entire sector" (Tania Canas, 9 January 2017). The article is a most read and is extremely accurate to the current state of the arts in Montreal/Canada, but I find it even more interesting if you look at it through a fashion lense.
The assessment of the Fashion month by the industry was positive in terms of diversity: almost 28% of models walking the runways at the 2017 Fashion weeks circuit (New York, London, Milan and Paris) were defined as diverse (note the italics here) according to The Fashion Spot. They began collecting data since two and half years ago, and this is the highest number they've recorded. Former model, activist and founder of Diversity Coalition Bethann Hardison has said that what she found impressive is how she could see the visual difference. Still according to The Fashion Spot, more women of colour walked the runway than ever before (27.9%, which is a 2.5 point increase compared to the previous Fashion weeks circuit). Apparently, every cities on the circuit are more culturally diverse than they were before, except for New York, who was already diverse, and already being the most diverse of them all.
Yes it is good news for models of colour trying to make it in the industry, and trying to get that White model money. The problem with this, is that define as diverse includes more than just culture: for this last Fashion weeks circuit, runways saw more body diversity (inclusion of plus-size models) age diversity (models over 40) and sexual diversity (trans models in particular). As Jennifer Davidson, editor-in-chief of the Fashion Spot told The New York Times: "As more calls for racial diversity started, there were calls also for different sizes. Age and transgender identity haven’t gotten as much visibility, but we thought it was important to highlight those in order to make sure the runways become more representative of the population buying the clothes". This really is amazing, and I am quite happy that the fashion world is realizing that the people buying the clothes are not the models. My main concern though is that the fight for more cultural diversity on the runway has been brushed aside: most of the plus-size, older, and queer and trans models are White, which still keeps the ratio the same as it was before. What I also find problematic is, as Hardison has said: "[the Fashion industry] go[es] for the edge, they go for something unusual, they are ready to go down, and that’s very very good". But is it very very good, to still be considered unusual, edgy and cool kids because we are racialized, sexually diverse, or older than 32? We already know the industry is capitalizing on diversity in order to make money, because it sells; was that the point of more diverse fashion weeks? What did it really change for diverse models? Better pay, more contracts?
In the meantime, last week dropped great news about people of colour in fashion: Edward Enninful has been named the new editor-in-chief of British Vogue, replacing Alexandra Shulman in August. I remember Enningful from drinking a smoothie while working with Grace Coddington on the September 2007 issue of Vogue, in The September Issue. Edward is the "first" for many things: first Black man, openly gay to take the helm of this magazine. Born in London from Ghanaian-immigrant parents, Edward Enningful is a stylist, and was with W magazine's creative and fashion director. I am more than happy to see him at British Vogue, especially now post-Brexit: he is not shy from calling out racism on social media. He was the youngest fashion director hired at i-D magazine, and has been appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE, like Yinka Shonibare) for his services to diversity in the fashion industry. This makes me really really happy, and I will for sure become a subscriber to British Vogue when his first issue will be launched.
What I read: