Are the Runways Getting Any More Diverse This Fashion Month?

Better than it was a few years ago. But still not great.
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Eliza Brooke
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Better than it was a few years ago. But still not great.
DKNY's spring show. Photo: Imaxtree

DKNY's spring show. Photo: Imaxtree

Over the course of the last few seasons, designers and casting directors have come under fire for the lack of racial diversity on the runway during Fashion Week. Back in September 2013, Bethann Hardison called for action on the issue in a letter publicly posted on the Balance Diversity website and sent to major industry organizations like the CFDA and British Fashion Council, which argued that no matter what designers' intentions are, the result of casting a roster of all white models is racism. And designers took note: After New York Fashion Week that year, Hardison said she had seen improvements in castings, although designers still had a ways to go.

So, one year later, how much has racially diverse casting progressed? We took a look back at all the shows Fashionista attended in New York last week, and the answer is... maybe a little? But we should be doing so much better.

On average, non-white models accounted for roughly 20 percent of the girls who walked in New York. (That's tallied up by total looks in the show, not total models; most shows involve multiple looks per girl.) The city of New York, meanwhile, only comprises about 45 percent white Americans.

Of course, diversity varies by show. While Public School cast a little under half bi-racial or non-white models, that ratio dropped to two in 34 looks at Diesel Black Gold. That number bounced up and down: 11 out of 37 here, 4 out of 39 there.

Weirdly, there was a massive discrepancy in the diversity at Donna Karan and DKNY. Two shows, same designer, but one was closer to 40 percent non-white models (DKNY) and the other 10 percent (Donna Karan). DKNY has been pushing its New York roots lately — recall the recent "We Are NYC" campaign, which showcased "real" New Yorkers and which was more diverse than most runway shows are — so maybe that tipped things toward being more representative of the actual population of the city. But why didn't that bleed over into the casting at Donna Karan?

Designers are clearly making strides relative to where things were just a few years ago, but we can still do more in making the runway a more inclusive place. Here's to next season.