So far, New York Fashion Week is leading the charge on diversity for Spring 2016. After examining 143 major shows in New York and tallying 3,727 runway appearances, we found a slight increase for models of color* compared to previous seasons. Overall, models of color were represented 28.4 percent of the time. That number is up from 24.4 percent for Fall 2015 and 20.9 percent for Spring 2015.
This season, black models made up 10.7 percent of the runways, followed by Asian models at 8.7 percent and Latina models at 4.2 percent. Black models also saw the largest amount of growth. For Fall 2015, runway appearances topped at 8.8 percent; for Spring 2015, that number was even lower, totaling 8.3 percent.
Although the percentage for models of color increased, many New York designers dropped the ball on diversity. Erin Fetherston, for instance, only booked white models. Pamella Roland didn’t fare much better. Out of 16 models, she hired one model of color, which equates to 6.25 percent of her lineup. And then there’s Monique Lhuillier. Her show included one Asian model while the other 21 models were white, making her runway 4.6 percent diverse.
On the flip side, Chromat had one of the most multicultural shows of the week. There were 14 models of color out of 20, or 70 percent racially diverse. Five of the models were black, four were Latina, three were Asian and two were classified as “other.” In addition, Becca McCharen, the creative director of Chromat, booked two plus-size models: Denise Bidot and Sabina Karlsson.
Tracy Reese and Sophie Theallet weren’t far behind Chromat. Both designers tied for second place at 60 percent. As you may know, Reese is a leader in the industry for diversity, but Theallet is a new addition. Previously, she made our least diverse list, only casting one model of color out of 19 for Fall 2015. This time around, she booked 25 models of color out of 42 — a vast improvement. Honorable mention goes to Kanye West who consistently casts diverse presentations. Unfortunately, since we were unable to identify all the models in his show, we could not include it in this report.
Despite the improvement, the New York runways for Spring 2016 were still 71.6 percent white, so there is a long way to go until we see true equality. But change doesn’t happen overnight, as much as we want it to. The important takeaway here is that the last three New York Fashion Weeks have shown a gradual increase in models of color, a positive pattern that will hopefully continue. At the end of the day, slow progress is still progress.
Stay tuned for our full Fashion Month diversity report in October.
*Models of color were categorized as those who appear to be nonwhite or of mixed backgrounds. Models included in the Latin category are classified as nonwhite Latins that do not appear to be strongly Afro-Latin.
With additional reporting by Elena Drogaytseva.