Coming off a record showing of diversity on the New York Fashion Week runways last September, this season showed only marginal improvements in runway inclusivity efforts, according to a report by The Fashion Spot.
While race and transgender visibility increased slightly among the 2,289 model appearances in 82 shows, the number of plus-size models and also models over 50 years old slipped, according the report. While the lack of growth this season can in part be attributed to the departure of several brands known for particularly inclusive runways — including Tome, Tracy Reese and Helmut Lang — The Fashion Spot analysis indicates an overall lack of effort around inclusivity. Further, it cites concern that only a select group of designers are championing diversity efforts, while the majority of the industry continues to remain stuck in their homogenous ways.
“The stagnation in our racial diversity numbers, the losses in the plus-size and age categories, the infinitesimal growth in the number of transgender runway models reveal that the industry isn’t transforming as quickly as last season’s numbers seemed to indicate,” the report states. “More designers need to get on board and share the happy burden of progress.”
Jennifer Davidson, editor in chief of The Fashion Spot, said she was particularly disappointed by the decrease of plus-size representation, and the inability for designers aside from Christian Siriano and Chromat to embrace women with curves on the runway. Following a record showing in September of 34 plus-size women on nine runways, last week only 26 plus-size models walked in eight shows, dropping to a total of 1.1 percent of castings.
“This is one area that we were hoping would improve, but it seems that it’s the same designers embracing size diversity every season, with no new designers getting on board. It’s clear the fashion industry still has a long way to go,” she said.
Though it was the most racially diverse season of NYFW to date, the percentage of models of color increased by just 0.4 percent from September, up to 37.3 percent. However, of the 19 models with the most appearances, eight were non-white, an improvement from seasons past. The number of transgender and non-binary models on the runway also showed a minor increase with 33 models this season, up from 31 in September. The report notes that this area continues to ride the wave of support that resulted when Teddy Quinlivan came out as transgender following her runway appearances last September. (Quinlivan once again booked the most shows of this category, appearing on nine runways.)
Age diversity continues to be a slow moving area for the fashion industry and the most underrepresented: The total number of women over age 50 dropped from 10 to nine this season. Two of these models were part of the Eckhaus Latta presentation, and another participated in Creature of Comfort’s presentation which featured models of a variety of ages.
Ultimately, the report states the largest barrier to higher percentages of inclusivity is that a majority of designers are failing to embrace the type of comprehensive diversity brands like Marc Jacobs, Christian Siriano, Chromat and Gypsy Sport are striving for. Even for designers that finally began to include women of color, the numbers at shows like Vivienne Hu and Jill Stuart were still very low, and failed to include diverse representation across age, size and gender.