NYFW is almost upon us, and among talk of trends, street style, and celebrity model appearances, we should also be keeping diversity in mind. In a Health Initiative letter from the board chairman and the president and CEO, Diane von Furstenberg and Steven Kolb, the CFDA also asked members to embrace diversity on the runway, according to Women's Wear Daily. Unfortunately, though, it's more of a suggestion tacked on to the end for good measure than an actual call for change.
The letter wrapped up with, “And, of course, let’s remember that American fashion champions diversity. At the inaugural New York Fashion Week: Men’s in July, we were very excited to see so much diversity on the runway….Let’s collectively do the right thing and set an example.”
DVF and Kolb were right to address the issue, but this is essentially a footnote in a letter intended to make sure designers are aware of the CFDA Health Initiative, which states that models who walk the members' runways should be in good health and at least 16 years old. The push for healthier models is undoubtedly an extremely important issue, but isn't increasing diversity paramount enough to warrant its own letter, too?
The numbers say it is. According to The Fashion Spot, last September's Spring 2015 NYFW runways were nearly 80 percent white, with models of color accounting for just 20.9 percent. The first New York Fashion Week: Men's was more promising, as the letter said: according to an article by the Huffington Post, the first three days featured 90 non-white models.
That may seem like a paltry number, but keep in mind that the scale of the Men's event is much smaller than the Women's. In its first year, NYFW: Men's had more positive talk of diversity than its female counterpart ever has. It's about time the Women's runways caught up.
So, "American fashion champions diversity"? I'm going to call BS on that one for now, but I think we'd all love for that to be true someday. Step one? More diverse model casting. Let's hope this letter was enough of a reminder to designers.