Bethann Hardison Pleasantly Surprised at Improvements Made in Runway Diversity

The former model and activist was pleasantly surprised by what she saw during the Spring 2014 shows, but there's still much to be done.
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Alyssa Vingan Klein
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The former model and activist was pleasantly surprised by what she saw during the Spring 2014 shows, but there's still much to be done.
Photo: Mike Coppola/Getty Images

Photo: Mike Coppola/Getty Images

New York Fashion Week is only two weeks away, which means that around the city -- and continuing into London, Milan and Paris -- designers will begin casting their runway shows any day now. Aside from anticipating the looks each label will send down the catwalk, the industry is keeping a keen eye out for diversity in show casting, which is due in part to the work of former model and activist Bethann Hardison.

Back in September, Hardison wrote an open letter to the governing bodies in all four Fashion Week cities, calling many designers out for the all-white casting in their shows. As it turns out, her words seemed to make a difference during the Spring 2014 shows, and Hardison was pleasantly surprised.

In an interview with Modelinia, Hardison shared her thoughts on the improvements that were made last season:

The New York shows were featuring three, four, even five models of color, compared to just one or zero the season before. London also made slight improvements, as did Paris. However, the most surprising improvements were in Milan, where Giorgio Armani used a model of color to open the show, Prada used five models of color, which is almost unheard of, and Jil Sander incorporated several models of color while they usually use none. There was a noticeable shift in energy last season, and I think people suddenly felt out of their comfort zone, which is a good thing.

She also points out that the positive shift has reached beyond the runways recently: Prada cast two models of color, Cindy Bruna and Malaika Firth, in its Spring 2014 campaign; Givenchy released a highly diverse campaign for spring and Elle featured mixed-race supermodel Joan Smalls on its January 2014 issue. While this is major, Hardison still sees areas that need improvement.

"The Spring/Summer shows often have more models of color, so the real challenge will be getting the Fall/Winter shows to reflect our global diversity," she told Modelinia. "That would be my dream come true. I just want to see the design houses keeping up the momentum and continuing to improve with each season."

For the full Q&A with Hardison, head over to Modelinia.