Fashion Month is over and here comes the flood of articles dissecting the issue of diversity on the runway, most of which include some question of why there has not been major improvements. It seems (to me at least) that the answer is pretty simple: The industry-wide practice of shaming and name-calling isn't an effective way to promote a wider acceptance of beauty, and thus, while we all agree that more diversity would be a beautiful thing, we won't see any major improvements until the designers want to make them.
On the heels of New York Fashion Week, I wrote about how Prabal Gurung embraced diversity yet again in casting his Spring 2014 runway show. Not surprisingly, Riccardo Tisci also showed a highly diversified runway, as well; white girls, black girls, Asian girls, and even a transgendered Lea T walked in Givenchy's Spring 2014 show. This is significant, as Italian-born, Paris-based Tisci is one of the most influential designers of the moment ... in the world. He is also proof that we don't need to pressure designers (and call them racists) in order for them to use more than just white models in their runway shows. By now you have likely caught wind of Naomi Campbell, Iman and Bethann Hardison's efforts to bring more diversity to the runway. I respect their efforts. I am sure their motives come from a place of love and equality, and this is admirable. But as I have said before, such efforts, as well as the efforts of various publications, seem a bit misplaced.
Essentially, those who unionize (for lack of a better word) to force designers/stylists/casting directors to cast more black models are more or less joining the efforts of the usual cast of journalists and essentially bullying designers to cast more "diverse" models, regardless of the fact that their intentions are to criticize the act of racism. Once names are named, the line becomes a bit blurry as to whether they are criticizing racist practices or racist individuals. I use the term bullying because designers who cast "too few" black models are singled out in the media and often called "racists." Then, the next season, they cast one more black model than the season before simply to appease the press. That's not progress. That's designers merely masking the fact that they would basically prefer to only use white models; its completely transparent; and honestly, it is pretty insulting not only to modern-day race relations but also to show-goers, who are smart enough to see that its a cover up. Both sides are to blame and unsurprisingly, no one wins in this repetitious cycle.
This is where Riccardo Tisci, Prabal Gurung and others come in, as they believe that beauty is not only represented in the form of Eastern European girls. They cast white, black, Asian, and Indian models, and they don't do so for fear that they will be condemned for practicing racism. There are black models on the Givenchy runway because Tisci thinks they're beautiful, not because he doesn't want to be called racist. The same goes for Prabal. These designers' genuine embrace of diversity in casting is far more beautiful than when it is quite obviously forced. We should be celebrating them.
With this in mind, do you find it inspiring to know that some of the most famous design houses casted three black models this season because their creative director/casting director and/or their PR department wants to avoid the bad press of being called racist? If a designer is stuck in the stone age and wants to cast all white models, then that's his prerogative. That's him showing his collection in the way he sees fit (even if it is in a behind-the-times manner). It is about the clothes. At least, it is supposed to be. I'd personally much prefer genuine casting of all white models than say, Philipp Plein's quite obvious publicity stunt of casting all black models. That should be considered worse that Prada or Dior or Louis Vuitton's choice in casting. Either way, there needs to be an open, honest discussion regarding the casting norms that the majority of designers/casting directors currently practice. How that can be achieved, I am not sure ...