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New York Fashion Week Still Has a Long Way to Go On the Diversity Front

The casting of transgender, non-binary, nonwhite and plus-size models either decreased or only slightly improved on the Fall 2018 runways.
Christian Siriano Fall 2018 runway. Photo: Imaxtree

Christian Siriano Fall 2018 runway. Photo: Imaxtree

The Fashion Spot released its diversity report for New York Fashion Week's Fall 2018 season on Thursday morning, and while the Spring 2018 runways were more diverse than ever, the latest findings prove that there is still a lot more work to be done on the inclusivity front.

After surveying 82 shows and 2,289 model appearances, racial diversity only increased the slightest bit — 0.4 percent, to be exact. For Fall 2018, 37.3 percent of castings were models of color, compared to Spring 2018's 36.9 percent. Of course, any improvement at all is a step in the right direction; when the website first started keeping track of runway diversity back in 2015, it counted just 20.9 percent nonwhite models in New York.

The report also points out that a number of designers who regularly prioritize inclusivity opted out of showing in New York this season, including Tome, Tracy Reese, Opening Ceremony, J.Crew, Yeezy and Helmut Lang, which brings up the question of whether the industry's strides towards diversity are truly genuine, simply positive PR strategies or only being championed by a select number of designers.

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Transgender and non-binary models landed 33 runway appearances for Fall 2018, a minor improvement to last season's 31. On the plus-size front, The Fashion Spot reports its first regression since Fall 2016: A total of 26 curvy models walked in eight shows in New York, including Christian Siriano (10 models) and Chromat (nine models), compared to last season's 34 castings. 

Meanwhile, age was the least represented category in New York, and the number of models over 50 years old slightly decreased to nine castings between six shows. Last season, 10 models in their 50s, 60s or older walked on the runways; among these particular castings, none were women of color or transgender.

"The stagnation in our racial diversity numbers, the losses in the plus-size and age categories, the infinitesimal growth in the number of transgender runway models reveal that the industry isn't transforming as quickly as last season’s numbers seemed to indicate," wrote The Fashion Spot's Cordelia Tai. "More designers need to get on board and share the happy burden of progress."

We can't expect record-high improvements every season, but we should always strive to do more — not only on the runway, but with street style coverage, too.

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