“What happened to all the black people on the runway?” asked model Tyson Beckford, who attended several shows at New York Fashion Week. “There are no blacks on the cats.”
Naomi Campbell put it another way: “Women of color are not a trend. That’s the bottom line.” And while Campbell wasn’t invited to the shows this week and didn’t attend, the supermodel may have been on to something. It seems that while the fashion industry was worrying about how skinny models were, it was neglecting another problem: how white they were. There were drops of color here and there, but with the exception of a couple of shows, the runways were lined with pallid, bony bodies.
“There used to be myself, Naomi Campbell, Veronica Webb, Tyra Banks,” Beckford said. “There used to be a lot of us out there, but today a lot of the designers just aren’t catering to black people.”
In truth, this Fashion Week looked like about as diverse — or homogenous — as many before it. But if ever there should have been more people of color on the runway, the time was now. The issue has been the topic of three panel discussions since September held by former model and agent Bethann Hardison. Diane von Furstenberg, president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, sent a memo to its members encouraging them to create fashion shows “that are truly multicultural.” The media has focused on the issue.
“I do believe it did have an effect on the shows,” says Kyle Hagler, manager at IMG Models, adding that there were a couple of new, diverse faces. “Obviously there is still more that needs to be done.” Casting director Jennifer Venditti, owner of JV8Inc, says more ethnic models were used, but they were the same ethnic models as always. She says she only recognized a couple of new models.
“With the white girls, there’s like a huge influx of people that you never saw before,” says Venditti, who did castings for several shows, including Doo.Ri, Peter Som, BCBG and Rodarte. “I feel like it’s always the same ethnic people.”