Diversity has always been a problem for the fashion industry. A lack of different ethnicities on the runway has been a constant issue with big fashion houses. What does it say when designers of colors choose to also use a monochromatic palette…okay let me be frank, a white only campaign or runway show? It is a regular practice for designers of color whether Asian, Indian or Black to present a mostly Caucasian runway model show. Is there a fear of presenting a mostly colored runway show? Will consumers not find the clothes appealing?
Designer Stella Jean has been catching major slack for her recent Fall 2014 collection, which was presented at Milan’s Fashion week. Stella Jean, who is half Haitian and half Italian, is known for her vibrant kente and ankara printed separates, mixed with European menswear tailoring. Stella presented a heavily African influenced collection complete with traditional African tribal prints with only three women of color amongst the 30-model runway show. Her Spring 2014 collection had no models of color in the entire 30-piece collection.
In my opinion, Stella Jean consciously markets her clothing to nonblack consumers. Since the clothes are so heavily Afrocentric, the concept is to show consumers that the clothes are wearable for everyone.
There is the concept that women of color are not the target luxury customers so why cater to them by including them in advertisements or in runway shows. Or the erroneous myth that only white models can sell high-end fashions. Either way, these negative overtones are getting too antiquated and tiresome to still be occurring.
Women of color have some of the highest positions. As well, they have the paychecks to spend on high-end fashion styles so why should we be negated and underrepresented? Is a black designer required to use black models to reach a broader market?
I think that all designers should make an effort to diversify their runway shows and campaigns. We live in a world full of beautiful color and fashion is about making statements and starting trends. Why should every runway show and campaign have the same white face?