In real life, people come in various shapes, sizes, and colors. Some of us are skinny, while others are not. Some are tall, some are short. Some are white, some are black, and others somewhere in between. We’re all unique and that makes us beautiful.
Fashion, however, generally has a different opinion. Models, to whom the masses look to define what beauty stands for, tend to come in one color, shape and size. Look at fashion ads and the catwalk, and you’ll see almost no variety there.
Despite repeated calls for diversity in fashion—specifically for more models of color—it seems most agencies are not really listening.
A report that examined 460 fashion print ads found that 84.7 percent of the models cast were white, leaving only 15.3 percent as models of color. More Asian models were cast, but fewer black and Latina models appeared in ad campaigns this season compared to Spring 2015.
Chloé, Saint Laurent, Gucci, Burberry Prorsum, Moncler Gamme Rouge, Versace and Valentino did not cast any models of color in their fall ad campaign 2015.
Only a handful of brands featured models from diverse races. Roberto Cavalli, Alexis Bittar, and Kimora Lee Simmons exclusively cast models of color for their fall ad campaigns.
The current state of the fashion industry perpetuates a white Western ideal of beauty. Yes, the white Western race are beautiful but they’re not the only ones.
“I’ve never looked at beauty as black, white, Asian—beauty is beauty,” said designer Prabal Gurung during the CFDA panel discussion held earlier this year to address the lack of diversity in the fashion industry.
Ideals of beauty vary from one person to another, and from one country to another. The practice of having exclusively or mostly white models for an ad or fashion show no longer really cuts it.
“The idea that European features are the epitome of beauty needs to be abolished,” Instagram holder @moremodelsofcolor told Dazed. And rightly so.
A study published in Elle Canada delved into how models’ sizes, ages, and races affect purchasing decisions. Ben Barry, CEO of Ben Barry Agency and assistant professor at Ryerson University’s School of Fashion and leader of the study, found Canadian and American women were more likely to buy fashion products that were advertised by models who were more like them in terms of age, size, color and demographics. Fashion brands have to meet two conditions to get this response: first, they have to show their commitment to diversity in both ads and on the runway. Second, the ads need to have the same glamour and artistry as would one featuring a size zero white model.
“All girls, regardless of their ethnic background, have the right to see themselves portrayed in the fashion industry,” said @moremodelsofcolor. If fashion brands don’t take heed, they might actually be hurting their bottom lines more than their consumers.
It’s your turn. What beauty standard irks you and why?