Representation matters, which is why it's undeniably good news that racial diversity in ad campaigns — perhaps the most consumer-facing form of fashion imagery — improved once again for the Fall 2018 season, according to The Fashion Spot's seasonal campaign diversity report. In fact, racial diversity was even stronger in ad campaigns than it was on the runways. However, the improvement over last season wasn't terribly significant, with 34.5 percent of the 530 models who booked Fall 2018 campaigns being women of color, versus 34 percent in Spring 2018. That's nothing compared to the progress we saw on September magazine covers this year. When looking at those stats along with size, age and gender inclusivity, it's pretty clear that fashion brands — especially those in the luxury category — could stand to adopt a more holistic outlook in their attempts to ramp up diversity in their campaigns.
Women of color barely broke into the report's list of the top 10 models who booked the most campaigns this season. By its calculations, there were only two, but those two were Bella and Gigi Hadid, whom The Fashion Spot considers women of color because they are of Dutch-Palestinian descent. The study does make note of the fact that, despite their heritage, they "'pass' primarily as white," adding that "the lack of skin tone variation among the season's top 10 models" is "downright depressing."
Age representation was stronger in that top 10 list: Forty-four-year-old model Amber Valletta actually tied for most-cast model alongside 22-year-old Rianne van Rompaey. (They each starred in seven campaigns.) It was also an exceptionally strong season for over-50 models, with 18 of them starring in 11 campaigns. Ladies like Betty Catroux, Faye Dunaway, Maye Musk and Kim Gordon contributed to a 1.5 point improvement in over-50 representation versus Spring 2018. That said, every one of those women is white, thin and cisgender.
Similarly, while visibility of transgender and non-binary models has improved both on the runway and in ad campaigns, the most-cast models in this category for Fall 2018 were Ariel Nicholson Murtagh and Teddy Quinlivan, both of whom are thin and white and, as The Fashion Spot puts it, "'pass' as female."
The one group that saw no improvement in representation was plus-size. Casting of plus-size talent tied Spring 2016's record low of just 7 models getting campaigns, or 1.3 percent of ads featuring plus-size women. The report also made note of the types of brands who cast plus-size: There was only one luxury brand in the mix — jewelry label David Yurman — rounded out by commercial brands like Anthropologie, Nordstrom, 7 for All Mankind and Gap. This is relatively unsurprising given that most luxury brands are ignoring plus-size shoppers with their offerings, too.
When it came to true, all-around inclusivity, those mass-market brands did a much better job than their luxury counterparts, who tended to embrace only one form of diversity in their campaigns. They might cast a number of black models or an over-50 white woman, while in contrast, Nordstrom's fall campaign featured ample racial, size and age diversity. Gap was the only brand to hire a transgender model of color (Chella Man) and a plus-size model of color (Ezinma). That sort of intersectionality would be nice to see across the board.