May 7th, 2019, 12:55 PM

Why Diversity Matters: How the Fashion Runways are Setting the Stage for World Change

By Jacinda Carlisle
Image Credit:  Úrsula Madariaga
Diversity sets the stage for much more than meets the eye. Image Credit: Úrsula Madariaga, Pexels
Can the most fashionable cities in the world impact diversity?

Racial and ethnic diversity? Check. Body positivity? Check. Age diversity? Check. Several of the runways of Paris and New York exemplified diversity in a multitude of forms during the Autumn Winter 2019 shows. 

During Paris Fashion Week, American designer Tommy Hilfiger, in his collaboration with American actress and singer Zendaya, debuted a colorful runway celebrating racial, age and size diversity. Complete with an all African American spectrum of size-and-age-inclusive models, the 70's disco, French-U.S. Battle of Versailles-themed catwalk was a glorious, accurate depiction of the world at large.

TommyxZendaya AW 2019 Collection, Paris Fashion Week. Image Credit:  Instagram @tommyhilfiger

According to Elle, the 59 black models, ages 18-70, included the world's first black supermodel, Pat Cleveland, alongside legends and muses Beverly Johnson, Veronica Webb and Chrystèle Saint Louis Augustin. Models Winnie Harlow and Jourdan Dunn also joined the impressive lineup, with icon Grace Jones closing the spirited affair.

Valentino and Balenciaga, also featured Paris runways synonymous with racial, ethnic, gender and age diversities. 

Steven Kolb, President and CEO of The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), published an open letter to designers just prior to New York Fashion Week, stating, “As you cast your New York Fashion Week shows, please remember to promote diversity and inclusion, on and off the runway. American fashion can lead the path.”

Designers including Christian Siriano, Prabal Gurung and Cushnie heeded the call, casting models of all shapes and sizes on the New York runways. According to Glamour, "the fall 2019 shows featured 94 appearances by curve and non-sample-size models."  

Christian Siriano AW 2019 Collection, New York Fashion  Week. Image Credit:  Instagram @csiriano

In September of 2017, boldly stepping forward and with the hopes of influencing runways all over the world, French luxury good conglomerates LVMH and Kering introduced a "Model Charter" specific to their 33 brands, a few of which include Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs, Saint Laurent, Balenciaga and Dior.

The initiative aims to set a healthy standard for models being cast by designers for fashion shows and advertisements. Additionally, it includes a commitment to provide psychologists and therapists on set, contributing to the overall well-being of the models during work hours.  

The New York and Paris Autumn Winter 2019 runways displayed increases in racial and ethnic diversity and age inclusivity and deserve to be celebrated.  But there is still progress to be made in the categories of gender and size.  As the global fashion industry is instrumental in inspiring society, the runways of Paris, New York (and subsequently London and Milan) hold the power and influence to positively drive, shape and impact diversity in our world.