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Amidst Diversity Improvements on the Runways, New York Fashion Week Takes a Step Backwards

Things are getting better, but we still have a long way to go.
Christian Siriano's Spring 2017 runway. Photo: Getty Images

Christian Siriano's Spring 2017 runway. Photo: Getty Images

Between shows from designers like Brandon Maxwell or Rebecca Minkoff, we at Fashionista couldn't help but notice that the runways for spring 2017 seemed more diverse than ever. Well, The Fashion Spot's seasonal post-fashion month diversity report is in, and it turns out we were mostly right.

While it's true that, overall, this is the most racially diverse fashion month we've seen since TFS started keeping track in October 2014, New York's steady improvement has faltered. Last season, New York saw 31.9 percent models of color, versus spring 2017's 30.3 percent. Still, New York had the most diverse runways by a long shot; this season, Paris trails at 24.1 percent, London at 23.5 percent and Milan at 20.9 percent. Of the shows that topped in diversity, only one took place outside of New York — London's Ashish, whose Delhi-born designer celebrated "Indian culture, because it is also such an integral part of British culture," as a post-Brexit message. 

The models who walked the most shows match this proportion, with seven out of the 10 top-booked girls being white. The worst offenders for spring 2017 — with zero models of color — included Junya Watanabe, for the third season in a row, and The Row, also a repeat offender. Gucci clocked in at just 7 percent; brands like Erdem, Olivier Theyskens, and Zimmermann were all at 5 percent or lower with just two models of color per show.

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Improvements aren't just happening on the racial front. With designers like Christian Siriano answering the call to feature more plus-size models on the runway, there was also an increase in body diversity. While the 16 plus-size models account for just .54 percent of the total models cast, it was the spread of designers that is truly impressive. Where spring 2016 saw 14 plus-size models (fall 2016 had just six), they were exclusively on two runways: plus brand AdditionElle and Chromat. Besides Siriano, plus-size models also appeared at Rachel Antonoff, Tome and Tracy Reese for spring 2017. Conversely, there were no plus-size models outside of New York, so there's still plenty of room for improvement.

Models over 50 appeared on more runways this season, with Lauren Hutton's walk at MaxMara garnering plenty of press. New York had 13 models over 50; London and Milan had two apiece, bringing them to .15 percent of the total model count for the season. Transgender models are also experiencing a slight improvement, up to 10 runway spots from last season's eight, and spring 2016's five. Europe saw just two: Greta La Medica at Fausto Puglisi in Milan, and Lea Tisci at Givenchy in Paris. They remain the least represented category of models.

To see the full report, head over to The Fashion Spot

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