Since much of the Balmain show yesterday was overshadowed by Kim Kardashian's newly platinum hair, it is worth taking a moment to reflect back on the casting choices of the Paris-based design house. The Fall/Winter 2015 lineup, which was lead by Victoria's Secret stunner Alessandra Ambrosio and closed by fellow icon, Adriana Lima, was noteworthy in its efforts to embrace diversity, something of a growingly popular topic of discussion (thanks to efforts by Bethann Hardison and the Model Alliance, respectively), but one that rarely comes into fruition on the runway. As striking as the exuberantly hued clothes, however, was the casting, which was far more balanced than nearly any of the Fall/Winter 2015 shows that preceded it this season.
Balmain, like fellow Paris-based design house Givenchy, for instance, is strides ahead of many other brands in terms of embracing diversity. I am not going to call out specific houses for not casting enough non-white models because I believe that designers, like any of type of artist, are free to cast whoever they believe is most representative of their vision for any given season. Instead of calling out designers, I believe it is more effective to commend those that are excelling, and creative director Olivier Rousteing and his team are in that camp, as indicated by the Fall/Winter 2015 lineup, which consisted of Karlie Kloss, Anna Ewers, Gigi Hadid, Kendall Jenner, Ashleigh Good, Bhumika Arora (who is Indian), Issa Lish (Mexican/Japanese), Jiaye Wu and Ming Xi (both of whom are Chinese), Muna Mahamed (Somalian), Sharam Diniz (Portugese-Angolan), Tami Williams (Jamaican), Leila Nda (Burundian), and Mayowa Nicholas (Nigerian), among others.
Token casting -- the deliberate use of one or two non-white models just to say you casted one or two non-white models (and to avoid allegations of racism in the bi-annual fashion runway diversity round ups that fashion blogs are known for) -- is inauthentic, transparent and does little to further equality on the runway, which is why it is refreshing to see individuals like Rousteing and his team furthering the brand by way of authentic diversity. It is only genuine instances like this that will assist in shifting the standard of beauty from a very fixed definition to one that is more open minded and accepting. Rousteing (along with Riccardo Tisci of Givenchy, Prabal Gurung, etc.) is also proof that we don’t need to pressure designers in order for them to use more than just white models in their runway shows. Thoughts?