Season after season, despite criticism and calls to action by prominent people in the industry, fashion's racial diversity problem continues. This problem is everywhere — ad campaigns, magazine covers, magazine mastheads — but is perhaps most visible during fashion month, when we spend our days watching hundreds of runway shows in which the models of color are way too few and far between. Last season, racial diversity on runways improved only marginally — models of color accounted for less than a quarter of castings — leading us to ask, yet again, "Why don't these designers know better? Why aren't they doing more?"
Well, thanks to the CFDA and the Diversity Coalition, which is led by former model Bethann Hardison, New York designers at least know what they need to do. Ahead of New York Fashion Week every season, the CFDA sends its members a health initiative letter as a reminder to watch out for models' well-being. And now for the first time that we're aware, the U.S. fashion industry's governing body also included diversity guidelines encouraging them to go out of their way to cast models of color in their shows, including a list of unambiguous instructions on how to do so, which you can read in full below. According to WWD, Hardison wrote these guidelines "four or five" years ago, which shows how little progress has been made.
Here's hoping for the most diverse New York Fashion Week yet.
-Encourage the industry to be inclusive of racial diversity when preparing casting of models for their company needs.
-Ask model agencies to include and send models of color when casting. Do not assume agents will automatically do so. It’s good for them to hear the interest and important to see what models of color are available.
-Request models of color every season and not be limited to Spring/Summer collections and hesitate when it comes to Fall/Winter collections.
-When speaking to model agencies suggest to them to scout for more models of color encouraging a better selection.
-Be open-minded to models of color. Make an effort to add diversity to your lineup. It affects how we see things globally and how we are seen as an industry.
-Our objective is to make a shift on how the model of color is viewed so it becomes natural to see them participating each season in a greater number than seasons past.