The Colorful Canvas Files: Bethann Hardison

Last summer, Bethann Hardison, activist, former model and leader of the Diversity Coalition, penned a letter to the “fashion heads that be” in New York, London, Paris and Milan demanding they add more diversity to their runways.

Hardison wrote:

“Eves are on an industry that season after season watches fashion design houses consistently use one or no models of color.

No matter the intention, the result is racism.

Whether it’s the decision of the designer, stylist or casting director, that decision to use basically all white models, reveals a trait that is unbecoming to modern society.”

Hardison also called out major fashion houses such as  Calvin Klein, Diesel, Donna Karan, Marc Jacobs, Rag & Bone, Victoria Beckham, and Vivienne Tam—for not using any models of color at all.

Months later, Hardison has reassessed the situation and has noted there has been some progress. Out of the 16 designers she called out last year, she says some have improved, WWD reports.

 In an email to the  Council of Fashion Designers of America, Inc, (CFDA), Hardison said  Narciso Rodriguez, the Row, and Calvin Klein as designers who made an effort to increase diversity. Calvin Klein increased from zero to five models of color, while the Row cast four. On the other hand, MM6 by Maison Martin Margiela received delinquent marks as the only New York label who failed to use any models of color at all.

Although the improvements were small in comparison to the actual number of designers, Hardison notes that continued improvement is still needed.

 “The objective is to continue this improvement across the entire industry. We look for consistency and not because of advocacy or a season lending to darker skin. We will continue to watch and reveal season to season,” Hardison said.

Progress Seen in Model Diversity [WWD]

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  • Lola

    There is no solidarity. It would be a good start if black designers used more black models. I watched the cushnie et ochs runway and they had two black models. Carly Cushnie is black but does nothing to help black models or black beauty. They have the two “token” black models, the three Asians and one or two who are mixed race. It’s a shame because of all the black designers that label is probably one of the most successful and one that will probably still be there in 10 or 20 years. The clothes are lovely, wearable and classy. No wacky mixed prints that only NY hipsters would wear.

    Kanye (I know he’s a nutjob) is always bitching about racism in fashion world yet he only had three black models when he showed his latest collection. And he’s always wearing clothes from designer who’d rather go bust than have black models on their runway. Same about the clothes he chooses for Kim.

    Why are black customers still shopping at Barneys despite the customer profiling scandal? Because showing off with that designer bad trumps everything else.