Raf Simons has done almost nothing wrong since taking up the reins at Dior. His designs have been met with critical acclaim across the board. He goes out of his way to be nice to journalists.
But there's one area where Simons falls short, and that's when it comes to the diversity in model casting for his runway shows. Obviously Simons himself doesn't cast the shows--but he's still the name behind the brand. And there's a stark difference between a Galliano-helmed Dior runway and a Simons-helmed Dior runway in that regard. At a Simons Dior show you'd be hard pressed to find any non-white model, whereas Galliano's shows for Dior regularly featured models of color. (We hear Maida Gregori Boina and Rami Fernandes cast Simons's shows for Dior which may explain things a bit--they cast Jil Sander and Calvin Klein too, two other shows that are notoriously white.)
And Dior's not the only whitewashed show. Noting that close to 90% of the models cast to walk in the fall 2013 runway shows were white, BuzzFeed reached out to five top casting agents to ask: Why?
James Scully, casting director for Tom Ford and Jason Wu, took Dior head on:
I feel the Dior cast is just so pointedly white that it feels deliberate. I watch that show and it bothers me — I almost can't even concentrate on the clothes because of the cast. And recently they're changing from a very diverse, worldwide, multicultural cast to just a very Germanic-looking white girl. Natalie Portman could complain that John Galliano was a racist, but I feel [Dior designer] Raf Simons sends the same message. I don't know what the difference is.
And just in case you were wondering, the shade does not stop there: Other designers called out include Chanel, Louis Vuitton, and Calvin Klein.
But the casting directors all caution against casting for "tokenism" purposes as well. Scully also made the point that it's just as offensive to put an Asian girl in a show to appeal to Chinese customers, arguing, "That's equally bad because a Chinese or Korean or Japanese person--they're not stupid and can tell the difference."
So what is the solution? All five of the casting directors seemed torn, recognizing that it's of course a complicated and layered issue. But Jennifer Starr, who works for Ralph Lauren and Ohne Titel, said it simplest:
"I think we need to stop blaming and start trying to figure out how to change things."