New York Fashion Week's Spring 2019 Runways Were More Diverse Than Ever Before

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The Pyer Moss Spring 2019 runway finale. Photo: Theo Wargo/Getty Images

The Pyer Moss Spring 2019 runway finale. Photo: Theo Wargo/Getty Images

The Spring 2019 runway shows are still underway with the final Parisian leg of fashion month going strong as I type, but The Fashion Spot has already run the numbers on New York Fashion Week casting diversity — and there are some noteworthy improvements to report.

New York is typically the most diverse of the four main fashion weeks and, just from eyeballing it, we think it's safe to predict that will be the case this season as well. In terms of racial diversity, especially, European designers should look to NYFW as an example. For the most recent season, The Fashion Spot found that the New York Fashion Week runways were more diverse than ever before: Nearly half — 44.8 percent — of the models cast in New York shows were people of color. That's a decent improvement over Fall 2018, which clocked in at 37.3 percent racially diverse. 

What's more, nearly a quarter of NYFW shows featured castings of at least 50 percent models of color — suggesting we've come a long way from a time — not very long ago — when "diversity" meant casting a handful of nonwhite models, at best. There are still designers who have a long way to go, of course: This season, for example, Zang Toi and Tadashi Shoji each cast one and two models of color, respectively. Among this season's stand-outs when it came to casting models of color were Pyer Moss (100 percent), Claudia Li (100 percent), Chromat (91.7 percent), LaQuan Smith (76.5 percent), Gypsy Sport (76 percent), Prabal Gurung (75.6 percent) and Savage x Fenty (71.7 percent).

For the fourth consecutive season, every show in New York featured at least one model of color, and the majority of the season's most-booked models were women of color: South Korean model Yoon Young Bae tied for most-cast model with Dutch Kiki Willems.

While the most significant improvements were made in racial diversity, there was some progress made in terms of size, age and gender inclusivity as well. A record 49 plus-size models appeared on 12 runways (account for 2.2 percent of models), versus last season's 27 (which equated to 1.2 percent) on eight runways. Chromat, Savage X Fenty and Christian Siriano were the leaders in this category.

Even though Spring 2019 was the most age-diverse season yet, models over the age of 50 remained the least-represented of all the groups, and saw little improvement, accounting for 12 castings, versus nine during the previous season.

This season was an interesting one for gender inclusivity: Trans women and non-binary models landed 53 runway appearances (or 2.41 percent) across 20 shows, a significant jump from last season's 33 castings. Drag performers were also popular this season: There were 25 cast among three shows (Opening Ceremony, The Blonds and Gypsy Sport).

As always, most designers could (and, ahem, should) do more to feature more than one type of diversity in their show and bring in intersectionality, i.e. more plus size models over the age of 50, or trans models of color. But, as the report notes, this season's results were "more straightforwardly optimistic" than in the past. The strides made in New York so far feel real. We can only hope designers in other cities are paying attention and thinking about what real inclusivity looks like, too.

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