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For the First Time at New York Fashion Week, Every Runway Included at Least One Model of Color

Fall 2017's runways featured 31.5 percent models of color, a marginal lift over last season.
Photo: Andrew Toth/Getty Images for Chromat

Photo: Andrew Toth/Getty Images for Chromat

Coming off a landmark year for racial, body and age diversity, as well as transgender visibility, within the fashion industry in 2016, we had high hopes heading into New York Fashion Week's Fall 2017 season. Featuring 31.9 percent nonwhite models, last February's Fall 2016 shows were the most racially diverse we'd seen in recent years. (Though, we should note, that number did drop to 30.3 percent come September.) And according to The Fashion Spot's seasonal post-NYFW Runway Diversity Report, released on Thursday morning, this season's racial diversity did improve, albeit marginally: 31.5 percent of shows, presentations and events included models of color, placing Fall 2017 in a .4 percent dead heat with Fall 2016's successes.

But here's where the real progress slides in: For the first time in NYFW history, every single runway (!) included at least one model of color. The Fashion Spot cites Gypsy Sport (87 percent), Chromat (77 percent), Kimora Lee Simmons (75 percent), Yeezy Season 5 (74 percent) and Marc Jacobs (66 percent) as featuring the most nonwhite models; meanwhile, Chocheng (6 percent), A Detacher (7 percent), Jill Stuart (13 percent), Zang Toi (13 percent), The Row (13 percent) and Marchesa (15 percent) included the least. (The Row, for one, had previously featured zero models of color for Spring 2017.)

Size and age diversity were also prevalent this season: There were 26 plus-size model appearances on nine runways, including Chromat, pictured above, Christian Siriano, Prabal Gurung and Michael Kors and six women over age 50. Transgender visibility saw a lift, too, with eight transgender and gender-nonconforming models — including Stav Strashko, Casil McArthur and Vincent Beier — walking high-profile shows like Marc Jacobs, Coach and Proenza Schouler; Chromat alone cast five transgender women: Maya Monés, Carmen Carrera, Aurel Haize Odogbo, Leyna Bloom and Juliana Huxtabl.

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The Fashion Spot concludes its report by asking: Was everyone represented in New York? The answer is not that simple. "Unlike last season, this season there were models of color in every show, which is positive and suggests that stakeholders in the industry finally recognize that it's socially unacceptable not to feature a racially diverse cast," Sara Ziff, founder of The Model Alliance, told the website. There's still so much to be done — Ziff notes that tokenism was still seen throughout the week — but it certainly is a step in the right direction, for New York at least. We'll see if this progress continues in London, Milan and Paris.

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